Plastic Pollution, Bag Bans
May 09 2016

NYC Passes Bag Legislation

by John Weber

The NYC Chapter celebrated a huge victory last week when the New York City Council voted to impose a 5 cent fee on plastic and paper bags at most retail establishments. The Chapter played a unique role in the campaign when chapter activists helped develop the website Bagitnyc.org which contains an interactive map to show bag litter in the City. Users of Twitter and Instagram are able to photograph discarded bags in places they should’t be like trees, storm drains, beaches etc, and then tag the bags with #bagitnyc.  This places the photo on the website’s map of the City. Another layer of the map shows the City Council districts and the City Council member who represents it. This allowed activists to document the extent of the bag litter problem even in a specific Boro or City Council district.

The Chapter also put a dynamic and effective volunteer leader on this campaign, John Coghlan, who made the bag legislation his primary role in the Chapter. John was the chapter’s liaison to the Coalition and he attended and spoke at City Council hearings and City Hall Press conferences.

While the original bill had the fee at 10 cents, the Chapter feels the five-cent fee will still be extremely effective because the DC Chapter helped pass a similar 5-cent fee there in 2009 and bag use has dropped dramatically. NYC uses about 9 billion plastic bags a year. If reductions like those seen in Washington DC of 60% or more can be seen in NYC, the impacts will be enormous.  

Surfrider Foundation would like to thank the bill’s primary sponsors and champions, Brad Lander, and Margaret Chin, as well as Jennie Romer of Plasticbaglaws.org and the entire Bag it NYC Coalition built around this issue.

Graphic by Nick Lynn
Photo above by Matt Gove: John Coglan (center) speaking outside New York City Hall. Margaret Chin and Jennie Romer left.
Photo below by John Suhar: Fewer bags on NYC beaches!