Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used Earth Day as the occasion to sign into law a ban on plastic bags in New York.
New York joins California and Hawaii as the only states where grocery stores and other retailers are prohibited from providing customers with single-use plastic bags.
The bags do not degrade and often wind up as litter on lands and in waters. Cuomo’s office estimated that New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags each year, and studies have shown that half of single-use plastic bags end up as litter.
“Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we’re putting an end to this blight on our environment.”
The bill agreed to by lawmakers as part of the state’s spending plan allows counties to charge 5 cents for paper bags, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.
There are a number of exemptions, including restaurant take-out bags, newspaper bags, garment bags and bulk trash and recycling bags.