More than seven months after it was scheduled to go into effect, New York’s plastic bag ban will start to be enforced next month, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said Friday.
DEC will begin enforcement of the ban on single-use plastic carry-out bags Oct. 19. Retailers will face fines of up to $250 for each violation of the law, and up to $500 if a second violation occurs in the same calendar year, Seggos said.
The law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on April 22, 2019, was to go into effect March 1. Enforcement of the law was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because of a lawsuit in state Supreme Court.
The court issued its decision in the case Aug. 20, when Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly in Albany rejected claims by Poly-Pak Industries that the law lacked “any sound or rational basis” and conflicts with other state statutes. Poly-Pak is a Long Island-based bag manufacturer.
“The Court’s decision is a victory and a vindication of New York state’s efforts to end the scourge of single-use plastic bags and a direct rebuke to the plastic bag manufacturers who tried to stop the law and DEC’s regulations to implement it,” Seggos said in a statement Friday.
Many local retail stores stopped using plastic bags Feb. 29, in anticipation of the law taking effect March 1.
ShopRite in Hudson stopped providing the bags Feb. 29. Other retailers, including Walmart, Price Chopper and Hannaford began making plastic bags available again during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control discouraged distribution of reusable bags because they might help spread the virus.
The CDC has since reversed its position, saying reusable bags are safe as long as they are kept clean.
Price Chopper announced in August it would discontinue providing plastic bags.
“We’re pleased to be resuming our efforts on behalf of New York’s plastic-bag ban,” said Mona Golub, spokeswoman for Price Chopper and Market 32.
Walmart in Greenport had no plastic bags available at checkout counters Friday.
New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually, each one for about 12 minutes, and approximately 85% of them end up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways and streets, according to DEC.