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NYC takes aim at plastic with bills banning bags, bottles

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced a bill that could ban plastic bags, while Councilmembers are proposing banning the sale of disposable plastic bottles in public spaces

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On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a three-page bill that, if passed, would enforce a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags by 2019, reports the New York Times.

The proposal was prompted as a result of a January report, issued by Cuomo’s New York State Plastic Bag Task Force, that stated: “Due to the difficulties of recycling single-use plastic bags and the challenges of educating consumers on their recyclability, proper collection methods and proper preparation of the bags before collection, all too often, these single-use plastic bags are disposed of as waste or become litter.”

To reduce that amount of plastic waster that makes its way to the state’s landfills and waterways, the task force suggested either a five-cent surcharge on plastic bags, which was previously opposed by state and city officials including Governor Cuomo, or a ban.

The bill must pass through the State Assembly and the Senate before it can move forward. Per the Times, the Assembly has been “generally supportive of a ban but not a fee,” however, the Senate has not weighed in yet on the proposal.

Last week, New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr., and Councilman Ben Kallos announced plans of their own to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of disposable plastic bottles at the city’s parks, beaches, and golf courses, reports the New York Times. The proposed ban hopes to encourage more people to rely on refillable bottles, and while sales of beverages in plastic bottles would be prohibited, park visitors would still be allowed to bring in their own plastic bottles.

“New Yorkers love convenience, especially because we are always running from one place to another, but this will make us pause and realize the impact that our actions are having on our environment,” said Espinal in a statement to the Times.

However, that bill is already facing pushback from industry groups, including the International Bottled Water Association and the American Beverage Association, countering that the ban is not in the public interest and “reduces access to water for adequate hydration,” said the International Bottled Water Association. Park vendors have also noted that such a ban would hurt their business.

On the contrary, campaign director for Corporate Accountability Lauren DeRusha Florez says that the focus should be more on investing into the city’s current public water system and making sure that tap water is available to “people all over the city.”

The bill is set to be introduces next week and will come with additional details.