We’ve all seen them – plastic bags drifting down the street, caught in trees and bushes, and floating in water. New York City is currently working on legislation introduced by NYC Councilmember Brad Lander to curb the city’s dependence on single-use plastic bags. His legislation (Int 0209) will encourage New Yorkers to consider environmentally-friendly alternatives like reusable shopping totes by requiring retailers to charge a fee for plastic bags stores provide at checkout.
Plastic bags continue to wreak havoc on a global scale. Worldwide, more than 1 trillion bags are used once and thrown away every year. That’s about 2 million bags a minute. They are a quick fix at the store that rapidly becomes a long-term problem. These plastic bags are a real threat to wildlife and our environment because they never decompose – they simply break down into smaller pieces. Plastic bag pollution finds its way from land into the oceans, feeding into places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mishmash of plastic that is the largest marine trash vortex in the world. Thousands of birds, seals, whales and sea turtles suffer a slow and painful death by ingesting plastic bags, which get stuck in their gut and cause problems with digestion.
Currently, laws exists in multiple towns and municipalities across the country designed to decrease use of this plastic waste. In New York State, the villages of Southampton, East Hampton, Hastings-on-Hudson, Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and the City of Rye are all combatting this pollution with initiatives designed to curb use.
We can all make a difference by shopping smart and using reusable totes – or even by declining a bag at checkout for small items. Councilmember Lander’s legislation is a leap in the right direction to reducing plastic waste in New York City which will benefit us and our environment. Let’s hope that the City Council passes it soon and Mayor de Blasio enacts it into law!