If you’re a Suffolk County resident, you’ve probably noticed you are now being charged 5-cents for EVERY disposable bag you use at the supermarket and other retail stores. The county’s new law began on January 1st, and is stirring up a slew of questions from local consumers.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH BAG CHARGE CHARGE?
Back in 2016, the Suffolk County Legislature was looking for a way to reduce the amount of plastic bags found clogging drains and entering waterways. Plastic bags are a huge threat to marine life, contributing to the 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile found on the ocean’s surface. Not to mention, plastic bags are an eyesore for residents who have to look at them scattered around their neighborhood. The solution: the 5-cent bag charge. The goal of the law is to inspire residents to consider the environment when they shop, hoping to decrease the amount of plastic bags littering roads by deterring consumers from using them to begin with.
WHERE WILL I GET CHARGED?
The bag law requires that any store who provides a disposable bag for customers to carry out items must charge a 5-cent fee per bag- this includes paper too. Types of establishments where you will see these charges include:
- convenience stores
- grocery stores
- foot marts
- apparel stores
- home centers
- hardware stores
- stationary and office supply stores
- food service establishments (located within other stores above)
There are a few exceptions to the law. For instance, when you pick up your prescription from the pharmacy, you won’t be charged for the paper pharmaceutical bag. However, if you desire to put that paper bag inside of another plastic bag…5-cents please! You also will not have to worry about the fee if you receive a garment bag from the dry cleaners or the plastic bags offered in the produce/meat sections without handles.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
Some residents may find this surprising, but all the money collected from the disposable bag fees goes right back to the stores. The new law helps store’s (especially smaller businesses) offset the cost they pay for bags. Typically, stores pay 2-cents per bag. With a 5-cent charge, they make back 3-cents for every bag that walks out the door.
Without state approval, Suffolk County is not allowed to collect the money for itself, but they do hope to see cost savings from the law. For example, fewer plastic bags may mean fewer hours of work to unclog waterways and streets, saving the county high labor costs for these tedious tasks.
HOW MUCH COULD A FEE HELP THE ENVIRONMENT?
Suffolk County legislatures strongly believe the disposable bag fee will change the future of Long Island’s environment, and many other locations around the world agree. Washington D.C., Maryland, Chicago, California, as well as cities throughout Europe, China, and India, have all placed fees or even bans on the use of plastic bags in hopes for cleaner and healthier environments. By making disposable bags less appealing to residents, demands for the bags will go down and so will the number of resources required to produce them. Over time, this will reduce the amount of bags entering our waterways that can leak harmful toxins into the water for both animals and humans.
It may be a nuisance in the beginning, but advocates of the law remind the public they have a choice. Bring those reusable bags to the stores, or bite the 5-cent bullet per bag, but as far as the law goes, it looks as if it is here to stay!
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