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.”