Cuomo again seeks state ban on plas­tic bags

Also seeks to ex­pand bot­tle-redemp­tion bill

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Pre­cious

AL­BANY – The ubiq­ui­tous plas­tic bag, used by con­sumers to haul home ev­ery­thing from gro­ceries to cloth­ing, would be banned statewide un­der a plan pro­posed for the sec­ond year in a row by Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo.

The gover­nor, in his 2019 bud­get plan to be de­liv­ered to law­mak­ers Tues­day, will also seek to ex­pand the state’s bot­tle bill, slap­ping a nickel redemp­tion fee on many re­main­ing non­al­co­holic con­tain­ers – from sports and fruit drinks to ready-to-drink teas and cof­fees – that are now not cov­ered by the New York bot­tle bill.

The gover­nor cited en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, from cleaner wa­ter­ways to less plas­tic head­ing to land­fills, for the pro­pos­als made Sun­day.

“These bold ac­tions to ban plas­tic bags and pro­mote re­cy­cling will re­duce lit­ter in our com­mu­ni­ties, pro­tect our wa­ter and cre­ate a cleaner and greener New York for all,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo last April, when he was fac­ing a Demo­cratic pri­mary chal­lenge, first pro­posed the plas­tic bag ban. A year ear­lier, he blocked a five-cent sur­charge that New York City had sought to im­pose on sin­gle-use plas­tic bags.

A num­ber of coun­tries around the world al­ready ban plas­tic bags or im­pose sur­charges on con­sumers who use them to take home gro­ceries or other goods.

Be­sides Cal­i­for­nia, which pro­hibits sin­gle-use plas­tic bags, U.S. ju­ris­dic­tions with bans or spe­cial fees on their use in­clude Hawaii, the Dis­trict of Columbia, Bos­ton, Chicago, Austin and oth­ers. Sev­eral coun­ties in New York also ban their use.

A state task force last year es­ti­mated New York stores give out 23 bil­lion plas­tic bags in a year.

The Cuomo ad­min­is­tra­tion de­clined to say when ei­ther the plas­tic bag ban or the new bot­tle bill ex­pan­sion would take ef­fect.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion, which did not pro­vide the pre­cise leg­isla­tive word­ing for the plans, also de­clined to say if the bot­tle bill ex­pan­sion would be a rev­enue-raiser for the state via money from the con­tain­ers that con­sumers won’t bother to re­turn to get back their nick­els.

The orig­i­nal bot­tle bill, called the New York State Re­turn­able Con­tainer Act, was ap­proved in 1982 and took ef­fect July 1, 1983. It has been amended over the years.

The new Cuomo plan would im­pose a nickel de­posit on sports drinks, en­ergy drinks, fruit and veg­etable drinks and ready-to-drink cof­fee and tea. The

law now cov­ers such drinks as beer, car­bon­ated soft drinks and min­eral wa­ter.

State of­fi­cials Sun­day said there were about 1.4 bil­lion plas­tic con­tain­ers sold in New York hold­ing the types of bev­er­ages that would be cov­ered by the ex­pan­sion, ac­cord­ing to 2015 data re­ported to the state tax depart­ment. Of that num­ber, about 247 mil­lion were sports drinks.

The new Cuomo bot­tle bill ex­pan­sion would not cover con­tain­ers hold­ing such drinks as dairy milk, milk sub­sti­tutes, in­fant for­mula and di­etary sup­ple­ments.

Cuomo also did not pro­pose ex­pand­ing the bot­tle bill to cover wine and liquor, which has been ex­empt since the law’s start. The ad­min­is­tra­tion said the state will look to pos­si­bly cover such bev­er­ages. The bill also does not in­clude cov­er­age of cider prod­ucts.

Cuomo’s plas­tic bag ban died in the Leg­is­la­ture last year, chiefly from op­po­si­tion from Repub­li­cans who ran the State Se­nate. Democrats this month took over the Se­nate and such en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly mea­sures such as those pro­posed by Cuomo on Sun­day are seen as be­ing much more likely to get ap­proved. Cuomo also in­creased the odds by putting the mea­sures into his state bud­get plan, in­stead of send­ing them to law­mak­ers as stand-alone bills that would be eas­ier to kill.

Leg­isla­tive lead­ers did not im­me­di­ately com­ment on the two pro­pos­als.

But Ju­dith Enck, a for­mer top En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency of­fi­cial in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion whose ju­ris­dic­tion in­cluded New York State, said Cuomo needs to also con­sider a fee on the use of paper bags at places such as gro­cery stores. She said Sen. Todd Kamin­sky, a Long Is­land Demo­crat who chairs the Se­nate’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion Com­mit­tee, has al­ready pro­posed a plas­tic bag ban and a min­i­mum 10 cent sur­charge per paper bag given to con­sumers at stores.

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