Will single-use plastic bags go away?

Around New York State

(WIVB) – Just about three weeks from now, single-use plastic bags are set to go, but will they?

The law was actually passed in April 2019, and after delays to figure out what would be allowed, a lawsuit, and then the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Environmental Conservation has set Oct. 19 as enforcement day.

Now, New York’s food industry is saying “not so fast”.

We have known those single-use plastic bags’ days were numbered- it’s just that the numbers keep changing.

The plastic bag ban was passed into law a year and a half ago- but it turns out the law would toss out the reusable bags we’ve been buying too.

“Anything that has plastic, regardless of thickness, so polyethylene, polypropylene are the most common,” said Michael Durant, president and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York. “Those bags will no longer be allowed to be sold by retail.”

Durant points out what stores are selling as reusable bags are also made out of plastic.

There are only a few kinds of bags that will pass muster when the DEC starts cracking down on Oct. 19.

“It explicitly states that it has to be a machine-washable type of fabric, so think of cloth, hemp, tote, other types of bags, and procuring and finding them is already proving to be a significant challenge for retail,” Durant said.

He points out that most supermarkets in the state have a plentiful supply of the polyethylene bags- but cloth can be a challenge, and paper products are already in short supply, so turning out the brown bags can be even more difficult.

“There are paper bags, but paper products, the supply chain has been slow to recover,” Durant said. “There are problems procuring paper bags.”

The Food Industry Alliance is talking over those issues with the DEC- even suggesting the state take a look at how Suffolk County handled the problem- charging a nickel for paper and plastic bags, which county officials say reduced plastic bag usage by more than one billion bags in a year.

“It has been a year-and-a-half since it was passed,” Durant said. “It’s still very confusing, it’s not workable, and folks need to take a second look at this.”

News 4 reached out to representatives for Wegmans, Tops, and Dash’s, who told us they are expecting guidance to come out of those talks between the Food Industry Alliance and the DEC.

As the law now stands, stores could be stuck with thousands of bags they would have to toss or transfer to other stores out of state.

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