Francisco Marte, United Bodegas of America spokesperson, (center) speaks out against the plastic bag ban on the steps of New York City Hall. (Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)
By Shant Shahrigian (New York Daily News)
Bag the ban, say some business leaders and New Yorkers ahead regulations barring a staple of city life.
“I can’t do without it!” Barbara White, 70, said while clutching her plastic bags Saturday outside an East Harlem grocery store. “I’m so used to this kind of way. And I usually get more than I bargained for when I go in there.
“I know it’s for the green, whatever that thing is called — climate change,” she added. “I’ll be in trouble.”
State lawmakers approved a ban on most kinds of single-use plastic bags last year, saying the move would reduce litter and help the fight against climate change. There are exemptions including for take-out orders, dry cleaners and garbage bags.
New Yorkers support the ban 62-33, according to a Siena College poll conducted after it was passed.
Opponents fear an economic burden in counties allowing a 5-cent fee on paper bags as a way to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags when shopping.
“It’s very unfair,” said India Gonzalez, a teacher in her 30s making a grocery run to City Fresh Market on E. 116th St. “There are people who can’t even afford 5 cents. You’ve gotta take this into consideration.”
Most city lawmakers have embraced the ban, which kicks in on March 1, but two of them led a rally calling on Gov. Cuomo to put a hold on enforcement. A state official said Tuesday that Cuomo was doing just that, but Councilmen Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) weren’t aware of the hold at a rally Thursday.
“Our future and the environment is important to us, but it’s not exclusive that this should be done on the backs of small businesses,” Gjonaj fumed. “In particular, 13,000 bodegas in New York City are not prepared for this regulation.”
Shops won’t face any consequences for the foreseeable future.
“Enforcement will follow in the months ahead,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Chief of Staff Sean Mahar said on WAMC radio.
“Our goal is to make sure that there’s a smooth transition for consumers and affected retailers with this ban,” he added. “But we want to give a period of transition.”
Earlier this month, the governor announced a campaign to educate New Yorkers about the ban, in tandem with the distribution of 270,000 free usable bags statewide.
But Gjonaj and Rodriguez said the state hasn’t done nearly enough.
“Customers … are not aware of this regulation and will not be prepared to shop locally,” said Gjonaj, who’s reeling from a seriesofscandals.
Low-income New Yorkers “don’t have the resources to buy recycled bags,” said Rodriguez, who promised to devote “5-10%” of his discretionary funding to reusable bag giveaways.
Business leaders at the rally said they haven’t had time to inform customers and stock up on supplies.
“We need to allow the time to the chambers to source [reusable bags] in Latin America with our counterparts,” said Frank Garcia, chair of the Chairman of the National Association of Latino State Chambers.
“Gov. Cuomo … you hurt the small businesses that are the heartbeat of New York!” he added.
Ban supporters are focused on the local and global environmental damage from plastic bags including manufacturing pollution, littering the streets, clogging landfills, and harming wildlife.