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New York City Council Considers Shopping Bag Fee Legislation

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Council introduced legislation Wednesday to charge customers 10 cents a bag at most stores.

The goal is to curb the number of bags going into landfills and officials said it would save the city an estimated $10 million a year.

“My understanding is the legislation is not focused on banning plastic bags,” Deputy Sanitation Commissioner Ron Gonen said. “It’s focused on charging a fee to encourage people to use less.”

The carry out bag fee would apply to markets and bodegas, street vendors selling fruit, vegetables and general merchandise and retail stores including clothing, drug and department stores.

Exempt are restaurants, bags for medication at pharmacies and liquor stores.

The proposed bill already has a lot of support. Nineteen council members have signed on to support the fee, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.

The bill needs the support of 26 council members to pass. Then it would go to the mayor’s desk for his approval.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has not said if he will sign off on the council bill, but said he is concerned about the amount of disposable bags in circulation.

“Plastic bags are a problem,” de Blasio said. “Our goal has to be to reduce the use of plastic bags. There are a lot of different ways to do that.”

Shoppers at an Upper West Side grocery store were mixed about the proposal.

“Bad idea,” said shopper Ed Stark. “I know it’s an attempt to reduce the use of bags, but I don’t think the right way to do it.”

“It’s a good idea,” said shopper Daniele Dimartini. “It makes people support recycling.”

A similar measure was introduced in August last year.

Fernando Mateo, the spokesman for the Bodega Association of the United States, said they support efforts to protect the environment.

“However NYC needs to do more in terms of educating the public through public service announcements. The best way to deter the use of harmful products to the environment is to teach the uneducated consumer,” Mateo added.

Under the current proposal, money from the shopping bag fee would go back to store owners, but sources told CBS 2 that’s likely to change during negotiations on the bill.

Paper bags are being included in the bill because sponsors feel that if it were just plastic, consumers would simply switch to paper.

“If you ban or put a charge on plastic but don’t charge for paper, a couple of things happen: people all switch to paper and we don’t get the waste reductions and that actually is bad for the retailers as well. Paper bags cost them more to buy than plastic bags, so if they start giving more of those away for free, they would actually wind up worse off,” City Councilman Brad Lander, who co-sponsored the bill, told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb.

As of 2008, officials said plastic bags accounted for over 1,700 tons of residential garbage per week in New York City.

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