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Editorial: Bag ban flawed, but acceptable

Editorial: Bag ban flawed, but acceptable

We have a year to adapt our habits to environmentally positive ban on plastic shopping bags
Editorial: Bag ban flawed, but acceptable
Photographer: shUTTERSTOCK

State Sen. James Tedisco will just have to find another type of bag to use when he picks up his dog’s poop.

State lawmakers over the weekend passed new legislation that will affect just about every New Yorker — a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags.

In becoming only the second state in the country to adopt such a ban (California, as usual, was way ahead of us), we’ll all have to adapt more quickly to how we bring home our groceries, line our wastebaskets, carry our lunches to work and, yes, pick up after Fido.

Whether you agree with this ban or not, it is a step in the right direction toward reducing the more than 25 billion plastic bags that New Yorkers use once or twice, then discard into the environment— fouling woods and waterways, filling up landfills and harming wildlife.

The legislation is far from perfect.

Presumably, the goal was to have us all switch to reusable grocery bags made out of cloth or other materials, right?

Well, while lawmakers went all in on banning the plastic carry-out bags, they pulled their punches when it came to the use of paper grocery bags.

Paper bags might decompose more quickly than plastic bags, but they have their own environmental problems due to the greater amount of space they take up in landfills and the higher cost to the environment of manufacturing and transporting them.

The new legislation allows, but does not require, cities and counties to impose a 5-cent surcharge on paper bags.

Why make this one aspect of the law optional? If the goal is to encourage the use of recyclable bags, why not be consistent and make the fee mandatory statewide? Why create a patchwork of confusing rules? Waffling on the paper-bag fee will just slow the conversion to recyclable shopping bags.

Another problem with the plastic ban is that there are still many exemptions, including bags for carrying meat, fish and chicken; cold cuts; newspapers; dry cleaning; take-out food and bags sold for lunches and trash.

So even with the ban, there will still be a lot of plastic bags entering the environment. The law does nothing to discourage their use or to encourage manufacturers to find alternatives.

Going forward, lawmakers should take steps to address the other issues left hanging by this incomplete legislation.

We’ve got until next March to change our habits. Eventually, we’ll all get used to it, we’ll absorb the extra pennies it costs us, and it will become part of our daily routines.

Rather than fight it, we should find ways to live with it and cheer the environmental benefits that will come of it.

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