New York’s ban, which begins next March, will forbid stores to provide customers with single-use plastic bags, which are non-biodegradable and have been blamed for everything from causing gruesome wildlife deaths to thwarting recycling efforts.
Some of the information here is taken from an article in the New York Times.
The biggest problem of the single use plastic bags is TRASH. American shoppers use more than 100 billion lightweight polyethylene plastic bags each year, and only a small portion are ever recycled. Most recycling centers can’t deal with them — they just clog up the machinery — and so the majority of plastic bags end up in landfills, where they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
The bigger problem arises when people don’t dispose of their bags properly, and the plastic ends up fluttering around in the wild, clogging up waterways and threatening wildlife.
But paper bags aren’t a perfect solution either. (The new law allows, but does not require, municipalities to charge a fee for each use of a paper bag, with the fee going to environmental efforts. This is why many environmentalists were unhappy with the law as written). It takes A LOT of energy to create a paper bag– much more than to create a thin plastic bag. Unless you’re reusing your paper bags a lot, they look like a poorer option from a global warming standpoint.
Reusable bags are an obvious improvement, but if you’re going to opt for a reusable bag for environmental reasons, make sure you actually reuse it — often. It takes energy, and there is environmental impact from creating, reusable bags– ironically, particularly cotton ones because of the water, pesticides, and fertilizers used.
What you PUT in your bag matters even more. A pound of beef bought at the supermarket will have roughly 25 times the global warming impact as the disposable plastic bag it’s carried in. So if you’re looking for ways to slim down your personal carbon footprint, taking a closer look at your dietary choices isn’t a bad place to start.
By the way, the town of New Castle (which includes Chappaqua and Millwood) here in Westchester County banned plastic bags in 2017, and requires a fee for paper bags. Connie Knapp, who shops in Millwood reports that “It’s been working really well. When DeCicco’s opened in Millwood they gave out reusable bags on their first day. They also have a big sign reminding people to bring their reusable bags. Most folks seem to remember. Anne and I keep bags in each of our cars. I also know that Chip and Tami, and Stephanie, have shopped at that DeCicco’s without reusable bags and have paid (I think happily) the dime that is charged for a paper bag.”