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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Updated 5:45 p.m., May 6

In a closer-than-anticipated vote, the City Council adopted on Thursday a bill instituting a 5-cent surcharge on grocery shoppers who opt for paper or plastic bags at the checkout counter.

Twenty-eight members in all adopted the bill (Intro. 209-A), which charges customers 5 cents per paper or plastic bag used, while 20 other lawmakers voted against it.

The vote came after City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced their support for the measure last week. The tax aims to convince more New Yorkers to use reusable bags when grocery shopping while reducing the amount of paper and plastic in the city’s waste stream.

Ten of the 14 City Council members in the Queens delegation voted for the bill: Costa Constantinides, Elizabeth Crowley, Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Peter Koo, I. Daneek Miller, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Paul Vallone and Jimmy Van Bramer.

Councilman Barry Grodenchik along with fellow Council members Karen Koslowitz, Rory Lancman and Eric Ulrich opposed the bill. Councilman Ruben Wills was absent from the vote for medical reasons, according to the City Council’s website.

Although supporters touted the idea as a way to make the city more environmentally friendly, other lawmakers and some Queens shoppers see the surcharge as another undue financial burden on New Yorkers. In a speech delivered during Thursday’s stated meeting at City Hall, Grodenchik called the grocery bag fee “one of the most regressive pieces of legislation to ever come before this Council.”

Grodenchik said the tax would likely cost grocery shoppers across the city more than $100 million annually, though the projected savings the city would experience from a reduction in paper and plastic waste amounts to about $12.5 million.

“If that seems to you like an awful lot of money to spend to save $12.5 million, there is a reason for that — because it is,” he said. “While I agree with the spirit of this bill, there are better ways of achieving our common environmental goals.”

De Blasio announced in a statement following the Council’s vote that he would sign the bill into law; it would take effect in October.

“The Council’s legislation strikes the right balance, reducing reliance on single-use bags and incentivizing the use of reusable bags, while safeguarding consumers with some logical exemptions to protect vulnerable New Yorkers,” he said. “The Department of Sanitation projects that this 5-cent fee could reduce plastic and paper bag waste by approximately 60 percent, based on the experiences of other cities.”


Join The Discussion

Charles Castro February 16, 2017 / 09:57PM
To the imbecile Steve, not Katz the other one. How stupid can you be. How does this in anyway help get rid of plastic bags? It doesn't. All it does is give the store owners money and they in return, give contributions to Van Bramer and Fererras. If you want to stop the plastic bags, make them illegal, ban them.. PERIOD. Sorry, they won't do that because no one make money.

Donald Aridas May 06, 2016 / 05:45PM
QNS should print how each City Council member voted on this issue. This new law is nothing but a regressive tax on the middle class. We all should hold the Mayor and the guilty City Council members responsible on election day.

Steven Katz May 06, 2016 / 04:16PM
Once again, the city council (like legislatures at all level), instead of figuring out how to reduce the cost of providing services, and instead of discarding services that are not part of a governments' responsibility, have passed another expense onto the already overburdened citizenry. The NY City auto use tax, instituted in the mid 1970's to help the city out of a financial crisis, and allegedly a temporary tax, has never been rescinded, and one local legislator could not even find the budget line item to determine where the money goes. Our government representatives have become uninterested in the wishes of the electorate, and worse yet, we allowed it happen.
Charles Castro February 16, 2017 / 21:02PM
Keep voting for Fererras and Van Bramer

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Chicklet May 06, 2016 / 12:26AM
Less than 25% of New Yorkers voted, and so radical socialists now control our lives. Just think about what kind of representatives we might have if everyone voted. These ignorant fools happily add a tax that'll suck $100,000,000.00 out of the pockets of city taxpayers and what will we get as a benefit? None of these guys do the shopping, they have servants. Re-using bags is unsanitary and could be dangerous, perhaps the laundry soap was in the bag that now carries the lettuce, or the drippy chicken left salmonella all over the bag which you'll use to bring the children some fruit. Ignorant politicians are far more dangerous than plastic bags, which most of us re-use for garbage anyway. Vote the bums out!
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Steve May 07, 2016 / 13:52PM
Congratulations to New York City for stepping into the 21st century. Now first of all, all the people against the bag fee should really read up on the reasons that this was introduced. It is NOT a tax, it is a fee. It shouldn't be a financial hardship on anyone. If you don't want to pay the fee, just bring your own bag. Simple. My wife and I have been doing that for years. Aside from all the cleanup of these bags, which are NOT recyclable, they are bad for our environment. There is a sea of plastic, floating in the pacific ocean that is the size of Texas. The fish & birds ingest this plastic and die, which of course will bring up the cost of seafood, more than 5 cents. The fish that live may be your dinner. When you eat fish, you may very well be eating the plastic & chemicals that are now part of the fish. These bags clog drains & sewers resulting in floods. For years people have been encouraged to bring their own bags, but most just don't care or can't be bothered. Putting a small fee to encourage people to bring their own bags, is probably the only incentive to the push the uncaring people to bring bags. There are many cities where this law is in effect & it works & most people have come to like it. Again, this fee does not apply to people who use food stamps. Reusable bags can be bought for less than a dollar & many are given out for free as promotional items. Once more, it is NOT A TAX. It is to encourage people to do the right thing & care about our environment. Bring your own bag & you don't have to pay anything.

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