DEC releases final tweaks to plastic bag ban

New York News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Monday, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a list of changes to the statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, the New York State Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act, that takes effect on March 1.

After reviewing about 2,500 public comments received over 60 days, the DEC proposed edits to the definitions of “exempt” and “reusable.” The Department deleted sections while clarifying and adding examples in others.

For example, they clarified that reusable bags must be cloth or another machine-washable material and removed a requirement that separate handles must be attached to a bag. Plastic bags thinner than 10 mils are also prohibited under the regulations.

“We settled on what’s called a 10 mil thickness, and currently there are no manufacturers of plastic bags at the 10 mil thickness,” NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.

Seggos said that thickness or greater is “cost-prohibitive” for stores. But some environmentalists have said that the DEC shouldn’t have made regulations to begin with, and it opens up more confusion.

Critics say the changes completely undermine the prohibition.

It’s been less than 14 days since the comment period ended, and it is clear that DEC rushed its review of the filed comments. The final regulations expand the definition of exempt bags to include plastic bags, exceeding the letter of the law and creating the conditions for more plastic pollution. It’s a shame they decided on this course of action.

Peter M. Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York

In a statement the Executive Director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance criticized the DEC’s regulations saying:

“The DEC is barreling ahead with an ill-conceived approach that goes too far, too fast and fails to take into consideration repeated requests for a pragmatic compromise.”

The ARPBA also says:

“The state has refused to heed the concerns of retailers and shoppers who say there’s been insufficient outreach to explain the ban and also are worried about a looming paper bag shortage and questionable availability of reusable bags from China due to supply chain disruptions.”

In support of the looming ban, the DEC has implemented a public awareness campaign: #BYOBagNY. It has distributed nearly 300,000 reusable bags in low-income communities and advertised on TV, radio, social media, and YouTube.

The New York State Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act aims to reduce litter, cut greenhouse emissions, and protect the environment for future generations. New Yorkers use around 23 billion plastic bags a year, for about 12 minutes each, and 85% end up in landfills or polluting streets and waterways.

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