Charging for Plastic

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:00

Upper East Siders debate proposed tax on plastic bags

New Yorkers produce about 100.000 tons of plastic bag trash a year -- taking an estimated 1,000 years to fully biodegrade.

Now, City Council members Brad Lander (D ? Brooklyn) and Margaret Chin (D ? Lower Manhattan) have introduced legislation that ? if passed ? would mandate stores charge a ten-cent minimum on all plastic bags consumers buy.

"This legislation represents a real, progressive step toward an environmentally conscious New York City," Chin said. "This bill incentivizes consumers to bring their own reusable bags and think twice before reaching for paper or plastic ones."

But in a city as diverse as New York, opinions are ? predictably ? split.

"It is what it is," Kenneth Jackson, manager at the Gourmet Garage on Park Avenue and East 96th Street, says. "I think it's bad for business? but people do need to recycle." Still, Jackson thinks that, "Ten cents? That's crazy."

Upper East Sider Brenna McCarthy supports the mandate. Walking home cradling two bottles of cranberry juice (single-bagged) in her arms, McCarthy states that she usually carries a reusable bag, but that "if it was a mandatory charge, I'd [always] bring my own bag."

Likewise, Yuan Hu, a Chinese immigrant who has lived on the Upper East Side for a year, doesn't understand why the ban isn't already in place.

"That's how I used to do it in my country," Hu says. "In Beijing, people pay. It's pollution for the whole world."

Meanwhile, some residents of the Lexington Houses ? a New York City Housing Authority development at Lexington Avenue and East 99th Street ? think that the ten-cent cost could be prohibitive.

"Even if you shop light, when you go shopping, that's still four plastic bags," A. Maycock Jr. laments. "That's forty extra cents, every time you shop."

Victor Johnson, Jr. adds that, "They did it with metro cards, now they're trying to do it with bags." The MTA began charging a $1.00 "new card fee" for the purchase of new metro cards this March. That fee was similarly assessed using environmentalist rhetoric. The bag charge, in contrast, would not be a tax but would function as a pure disincentive, and would go back to the businesses themselves to cover the cost of the plastic.

Taking some of these more cash-strapped New Yorkers into account, the new bill requires that stores waive the plastic bag charge when customers are using food stamps to make their purchases. Food pantries, likewise, will be exempt.

Still some East Siders wish there were some middle ground.

"I'm with recycling, but it's ridiculous to pay ten cents," Loriah Blackman, high schooler, says. "I'm paying for everything in the bag." Still, she concedes that if a mandatory charge went into affect, she would cut down on her plastic waste.

"I would definitely bring my own bags," Blackman said.