New York Plastic Bag Ban Becomes Law; Takes Effect March 2020

By 2050, experts estimate, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. (Richard Carey/Adobe Stock)

KINGSTON, N.Y. – The bill banning single-use plastic bags statewide has been signed into law. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held an Earth Day news conference in Kingston, home port of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, to announce the signing to reporters and environmental groups. 

Every year, New Yorkers use about 23 billion plastic bags, and a nationwide study showed that approximately half of all single-use bags end up as litter. According to Greg Williams, executive director of Clearwater, plastic bags are a large percentage of the plastic waste seen in the river – and even more that is not seen.

“Plastic bags eventually break down into what we call mirco-plastics and end up in the flesh of fish and anything or anybody who eats those fish,” Williams said.

Around the world, countries and municipalities have seen significant reductions in the use of plastic bags by banning them or instituting a fee for each bag used. Williams said he’s confident New York’s ban will reduce the amount of plastic in the Hudson.

“By 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the Hudson River than there will be fish,” he said. “So, while they’re just one of a number of sources of plastic, they’re a very important one.”

To encourage the use of reusable bags, the new law also will allow counties and cities in New York to charge a 5 cent fee for single-use paper bags. But Williams pointed out there still is a lot of work to be done to cut down or eliminate plastic waste in the environment.

“I’d like to see the elimination of single-use plastics in fast food,” he said. “Perhaps we can give up plastic straws, plastic cup lids, plastic forks and spoons.”

The ban is scheduled to take effect in March 2020.

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