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New York expected to become 2nd state to ban plastic bags

"I think we’re going to look back and wonder why this isn’t something that was commonplace before now," said a state senator who is a leading proponent of the ban.
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New York lawmakers are expected to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags as a part of the annual budget bill, making it the second state to prohibit their use.

The deal as currently agreed to by New York lawmakers would ban the use of plastic bags throughout the state.

The goal is to get consumers to move away from single-use bags to reusable totes, State Senator Todd Kaminsky told NBC News on Thursday.

But the current agreement among lawmakers is to give counties and other local governments the option to charge a 5-cent fee on paper bags.

"I think we’re going to look back and wonder why this isn’t something that was commonplace before now," said Kaminsky, chairman of the environmental conservation committee. "But I’m glad we’re doing it now and leading the way in being one of the first states to do it."

Governor Cuomo Renews Call For Plastic Bag Ban In New York State
People carry plastic bags during the lunch hour in Lower Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2019 in New York.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

California is the only state so far with a statewide ban on plastic bags. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law in 2014, which also allows businesses to charge 10 cents for reusable or paper bags.

Hawaii has a de facto statewide ban because most of its counties prohibit nonbiodegradable plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill last year to ban plastic bags, but was unable to get it passed by a Republican-controlled state senate. Democrats won control of that chamber in November.

Cuomo said in a statement Thursday night that the plan to ban the bags was a "smart, multi-pronged action" that would protect natural resources for future generations of New Yorkers.

"For far too long these bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways and that's why I proposed a ban in this year's budget," Cuomo said.

In a press release last year, the governor said New York residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually, contributing to land and water pollution. Reducing the number of single-use plastic bags in New York City alone would save an estimated $12.5 million in disposal costs, Cuomo's office claimed.

The European Union voted Wednesday to impose a ban on single-use plastic items such as straws, forks and knives after growing concerns about plastic pollution in oceans, according to Reuters.