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City Council Members Want to Cut Plastic Bag Use With 10-Cent Fee

 New York City Council members on Tuesday introduced legislation that would charge shoppers 10 cents for plastic shopping bags.
New York City Council members on Tuesday introduced legislation that would charge shoppers 10 cents for plastic shopping bags.
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PARK SLOPE — City Council members want to trash plastic bags by charging shoppers 10 cents a pop to use them under legislation unveiled Tuesday.

The proposed law is meant to slash New Yorkers' use of plastic sacks, which cost the city $10 million a year to dispose of and mostly end up clogging landfills, according to Park Slope City Councilman Brad Lander, who announced the legislation with Councilwoman Margaret Chin at a Tuesday press conference.

"It can be easy to forget the impact we each have on the environment — an impact that really adds up when you have a city of 8 million people," Lander said. "The truth is, there are a lot of times that we don’t really need a plastic bag. This common sense legislation will help New York cut plastic bag waste, both saving money and reducing litter, without effecting small businesses."

Similar laws in other cities such as Washington, D.C. have reduced plastic bag use by as much as 90 percent, according to backers of the proposed law. New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic bags annually, backers said.

"Legislation like this has been shown to lead to swift and significant changes in consumer behavior because consumers must make a decision as to whether they need a carryout bag for each particular purchase," said Jennie R. Romer, founder of PlasticBagLaws.org. Romer led a successful effort to ban plastic bags in San Francisco and moved to New York to work on an anti-plastic bag initiatives here.

The 10-cent fee would only apply at grocery stores and retail outlets that use carryout bags, but not at restaurants. Store owners would keep the 10-cent fee, and the charge would be waived for shoppers using food stamps.

"Plastic bag charges have proven to be effective all over the world at reducing harmful litter, and encouraging the use of reusable alternatives…This is a well-developed, meaningful piece of legislation which will go a long way toward improving the environment of New York City," said Upper West Side City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, a co-sponsor of the proposed law.

The thin plastic bags used for bulk food and produce in grocery stores wouldn't be subject to the charge. The Park Slope Food Co-op, which already bans plastic bags, is considering phasing out the thin produce bags.