NYC Considers Ban on Plastic Bags

Text and photos by Kimberly Cecchini-originally posted on The Capital Press.

Plastic bags are like leaves; rustling on the ground, adorning tree branches and floating through air and water. In fact, plastic bags float so far from our hands that many have accumulated into a ‘Giant Vortex’ in the Pacific Ocean. Commonly referred to as the ‘Great Plastic Garbage Patch’ – only fun for its throwback to Charlie Brown, but not adequate in its description- the colorful swirl is estimated to be twice the size of Texas.

Following plastic bag bans in other cities in the United States, New York City is again looking for ways to contend with its own 10,000 tons a year issue that costs $10 million dollars to dump.

Yes, it annually costs the Big Apple $10,000,000 to dispose of all those smiley faced bags.

That’s gotta be enough for a couple of happy hour rounds to put smiles on the entire metropolis- or for a few other things on New Yorkers’ wish list.

The Reflexive Bag Grab

The proposal will not make people completely bemoan the loss of the oily totes; they will be able to acquire each one for a 10¢ fee. The hope is that folks will be more inclined to carry a reusable bag-there are some that even roll-up to pocket size- or at least manage to carry a single banana or ironically, a single water bottle, without the reflexive bag grab.

70 American cities, including Washington, D.C., have already banned one-use bags. Early last year, the District Department of Environment with the Alice Ferguson Foundation surveyed capital residents and businesses after 3 years of a ban similar to the New York proposal. The results are quite stunning: 67% see fewer plastic bags as litter, 80% report using less disposable bags, 80% carry reusable bags when they shop and 53% support the law while only 16% are ‘bothered’ by it. 69% of businesses responded that the law has either been positive (21%), has no impact (48%) or has had a mixed impact (8%) on their functioning.

Letting Go

Before plastic, the paper bag reigned. Once their younger, plastic cousins were found to be cheaper, retailers began embracing them. Since the mid-1970’s, they have become than the norm; within 20 years, 8 out of 10 bags were plastic.

Although I arrived too late in the seventies to recall the bag transition, I have observed enough cultural changes to understand that most things are resisted at some point until they saturate our experiences. Can you remember a time when we found our way home before GPS? I stubbornly stuck to maps for awhile and, alas, now I am only bothered with turn-by-turn directions when they interrupt my Bluetooth.

Not for nothing, it’s not that long ago in the United States that we were fortunate enough to safely hydrate without a ready bottle of Poland Springs. People get used to things.

If the ban passes, most New Yorkers-like their D.C. brethren-will get used to carrying their own bag. Eventually sticking a reusable tote in our pockets will be as mindless as grabbing and tossing a plastic one. Like they once were before the advent of disposable bags, reusable bags will just be…bags.


“A Brief History of Plastic & Paper Bags.” Hands On Hemp. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 July 2014.
Carr, Vanessa.

“An Ocean of Plastic.” PBS. PBS, 09 Aug. 2010. Web. 22 July 2014.

“De Blasio at Six Months: The Administration’s Take.” The Brian Lehrer Show. WNYC. New York, New York, 18 July 2014. Radio.

Schmitt, Carrie. “Plastic Bag Bans.” The Municipal. N.p., 12 June 2012. Web. 22 July 2014.

2 thoughts on “NYC Considers Ban on Plastic Bags

  1. It has sure made a difference in Seattle. The decrease in plastic bag litter is huge. And I see most people bringing reusable bags into the grocery store.

    I wish they would expand it to include the liquor stores and the small stores.

    1. That’s encouraging; so glad you shared! More people need to hear that it works. It’s a great start but, I agree, that the liquor and small stores should be included.

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