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Lawmakers begin push to expand plastic bag ban to restaurants

Days after lawmakers approved a measure in the budget banning plastic bags statewide, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy wants to expand it.

Fahy on Thursday announced she would introduce a bill that would ban restaurants from distributing single-use plastic bags.

The bag ban in the state budget exempted restaurants, as well as businesses like dry cleaners, from the ban.

Fahy called the exemption for restaurants “too big an environmental loophole to ignore.”

“New York’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery stores shows that our state is once again ready to carry the mantle of environmental leadership,” she said.

“However, the plastic bag provisions included in the budget can go one-step further in minimizing the more than 23 billion plastic bags New Yorker dispose of each year. Further reducing plastic pollution requires that the state target all major contributors, not just grocery stores.”

The plastic bag ban also includes a 5-cent surcharge for paper bags. Fany wants retailers to be able to retain 2 cents of the paper bag fee to cover the cost of bags one year after implementation.

Currently, the bag ban has 3 cents diverted to the Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents to local governments that opt in and distribute reusable bags to low-income shoppers.

“For mom-and-pop small businesses and brick and mortar stores currently operating on small profit margins,” Fahy said.

“Even a small alteration in the fee collection following predicted behavioral changes such as this would provide business owners both predictability and flexibility. Our Main Street businesses are often leaders in community and environmental responsibility. Towns and cities throughout the state would be well-served by remitting this fee directly back into the local economy.”

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