Mixed Reaction Over Suffolk County 5-Cent Plastic Bag Fee

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Opinions are mixed over a new measure approved in Suffolk County that will charge customers a fee for single-use plastic bags.

The five-cent fee passed Wednesday night by a vote of 13-4.

It applies to convenience stores, grocery stores, clothing stores and others and encourages people to use their own reusable bags, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.

Proponents say plastic bags are an environmental hazard that litter our water and coastlines and can have a devastating affect on wildlife. 

“We are thrilled that Suffolk County has joined the global movement away from unnecessary, disposable bags with the passage of their reusable bag incentive bill,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in a statement. “Plastic bags are a mistake of the past, reusable bags are the solution for our future.”

The legislature says only five to seven percent of plastic bags are recycled.

“If we can take some of the burden of the pollution that these bags pose — they block our sewer treatment plants, they block storm water run off pipes — if we can do that, we’re gonna save taxpayers money,” the bill’s sponsor, Suffolk County legislature William Spencer, said back in April.

But the two Democrats and two Republican lawmakers who voted against the bill say residents are tired of being nickel and dimed by the government.

Democratic Legislator Sarah Anker said many senior citizens in her community did not support the fee.

“I have one of largest senior citizen communities in Suffolk County and I’ve gotten an earful,” she told Newsday.

Poly-Pak Industries produces plastic bags on Long Island made from recycled plastic bags.

“Not only is it inexpensive, but it is not made from oil, which the Suffolk County legislature believes it is,” said the company’s Peter Levy. “It is made of a byproduct of natural gas.”

They claim some reusable bags come with health concerns, are made of oil and imported from China. They also say the legislation singles out one small percentage of a larger litter problem.

Long Island residents had mixed responses.

Jason Slutsky told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs he plans to just continue to use and pay for plastic and paper.

“It’s just another expense, it’s like a tax,” he said.

“I think it’s really good for the environment,” another resident said.

The law does not apply to bags without handles or those used for items like produce, meat or chicken. The stores get to keep the money.

The law takes affect in January 2018.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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