Southern Brooklyn Pols Blast Plastic Bag Fee Passed By City Council

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Source: katerha via flickr

Source: katerha via flickr

The City Council on Thursday narrowly passed a controversial shopping bag fee aimed at curbing the use of disposable grocery bags in favor of reusable, environmentally-friendly materials.

Proponents of the bill, which passed 28-20, say it will rein in the ubiquitous use of shopping bags — that pile every year in landfills — and bring the New York in line with similar laws passed in cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C.. The law, expected to go into effect in October, imposes a five-cent fee on paper and plastic shopping bags. There are some exceptions: The fee does not apply to bags used by pharmacies, produce and liquor bottles. Soup kitchens and groceries bought with food stamps are also exempt.

However, the fee drew almost universal scorn from southern Brooklyn lawmakers, who said it would disproportionally impact low-income and elderly New Yorkers who can’t afford to shell out a nickel for every grocery bag.

“It adds up,” said City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who voted against the fee. “Put away a nickel or a quarter everyday and see how much you have at the end of the year. People are already having a hard time making ends meet.”

Deutsch said he supports measures to protect the environment, but that the law should be written to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, not punish those who don’t.

Councilman Mark Treyger agreed, calling the fee “a tale of two environmental policies” because high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods already reward customers who bring reusable bags.

“Unfortunately, we do not have a Whole Foods in our community. One can safely assume which areas have Whole Foods stores and which don’t. For residents of Southern Brooklyn, this is not an equitable solution,” he said in a statement.

There’s still hope that plastic grocery bags won’t go the way of the subway token. State Senator Simcha Felder, who as a councilman voted against a six-cent bag fee touted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has introduced a bill to prohibit municipalities from setting bag fees, the New York Times reports.

Felder told the Times the fees are “nothing less than a tax on the poor and the middle class — the most disadvantaged people.”

Lawmakers who voted against the bill also noted the fee goes directly into the pockets of retailers, rather than being collected by the city and used for public benefit.

Writing to the Yeshiva World News, Councilman David Greenfield said “the bag tax now under consideration in New York is, by design, a massive giveaway by politicians to wealthy business owners.”

“While five cents for a plastic bag may not sound like much to the types of people who are supporting this legislation, the fact is that there are many families in New York for whom every nickel counts,” he wrote.

Councilman Vincent Gentile echoed his sentiment.

“I stand here for the seniors, and the blue collar workers who might not be on public assistance,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile, who represents Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. “This fee is regressive, and burns the communities it’s trying to help.”

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  • Robert D

    But no one says anything about how we still get charged a a nickel on every can and plastic bottled beverage we buy in NY. If you don’t recycle you get fined so you’re already forced to put your plastics in the proper container. Why still get the 5 cents? Get rid of the nickle get rid of the garbage crusaders and lines of collectors by my local supermarket. It’s a win win.

  • Spunky1407

    This is a very stupid law put into effect by equally stupid people. It will not solve any problems whatsoever.

  • Glenview22

    This is a regressive tax which will falls heavily on the poor and working class, groups which Socialist Brad Lander claims to protect. Next year Brad Lander and the rest of the city council are up for re-election and this gives us the opportunity to return the favor of this bag tax by voting against all of these 28 idiots who voted in favor of Brad Lander’s bill. Obviously, Brad Lander a midwestern native of St. Louis and educated in Chicago, still doesn’t understand the people he was voted to represent. We all like our shopping bags; we go shopping by foot, we go shopping on our way home from work (9 – 6 working hours – something Brad Lander hasn’t done in years, if he ever worked a normal hour job) and understandably, do not carry around an ugly dirty cloth reusable shopping bag or plastic shopping bags as part of our routine. New Yorkers are used to go shopping and getting our items in FREE plastic bags. This is not St. Louis or Chicago or Washington or California were we all going shopping by car. Chicago will be looking for a new Mayor in a few years – perhaps Brad Lander will return to Chicago and run for Mayor there.

  • Nadirecur

    I’m not bothered by this. As an environmentally conscious individual, I already do bring reusable bags with me to the supermarket. Some supermarkets in south Brooklyn (like Food Dynasty on 86th st) already have policies where they take 5 cents off your purchase when you bring your own bag.

    Bringing a reusable bag to the supermarket isnt’t hard, but over time it makes a huge impact. We only have one planet. If it’s too much for us to do our part to take care of it, we don’t deserve to live here.

    • Sean F

      Bringing “a” reusable bag is no big deal, but when one is shopping for a family for the week, bringing 20 or more reusable bags is not reasonable. It’s those family shoppers who will be hit most by this terrible law. Stores already cover the cist of providing shopping bags. They shouldn’t penalize families, but I’m fine with them rewarding people who bring their own bags (reusable or otherwise).

      And Food Dynasty will never see my foot traffic, new owners or not. The name is forever tarred by the previous owners’ horrific celebrations on 9/11/01.

      • Nadirecur

        Stores that are already charging for bags don’t even tend to charge “per bag” in spite of the policy. In my experience, they only charge the bag fee once per purchase. This would not affect large families as much as you say. Even if they did charge for every single bag, family shoppers would still have the advantage. Individual shoppers tend to make impromptu shopping trips, whereas family shoppers plan for large supermarket visits. If you know you’re heading to the supermarket, it’s easier to have bags on you when you head inside.

        Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, but it won’t be any more uncomfortable than it was adjusting to the 5cent tax on plastic and glass bottles. If anything, this law should’ve been put in place 40 years ago to help prevent the environmental issues we have today. Those who are truly bothered by losing a few dollars/year will start recycling their bags and even those who aren’t bothered by the cost will be encouraged to recycle because everyone else is doing it. Don’t be lazy. Bring your own bags to go shopping. Your short term discomfort results in a long term greater good.

        • Sean F

          I don’t find the nickel per bottle to be regressive because I can get it back when I return my bottles. If the grocery stores want to take back my plastic bags and reuse them, and give me my nickel back, that would be fine. Then it would be my choice whether to seek the refund or not.

          My family shops at approximately 4 supermarkets each week, chasing the sale items. Supermarket shopping for families is already hard work, between checking circulars, clipping coupons, and balancing lists against the minimum purchases and maximum number of offers per item. Needing to plan out exactly how many shopping bags are needed would be an unnecessary burden.

          However, I have discovered that I can buy bulk quantities of supermarket-style plastic shopping bags online for about 1 to 2 cents per bag. If the law passes, I’ll save 3 to 4 cents per bag by buying them online, rather than add to any supermarket’s bottom line.

          As for Food Dynasty on 9/11, the former Middle Eastern owners and employees went outside and celebrated in the parking lot when the Towers fell. My next door neighbor was there to see it, and he was both a very trustworthy source, and visibly shaken by it when he came home. I know there are new owners now, but Food Dynasty will forever bear the stench of that moment in my mind. If the new owners had changed the name, I might find it possible to shop there, but for now I keep it under boycott.