To place a charge on the usage of plastic bags is understandably a controversial decision. Some argue in favor of it because they believe that an extra charge on plastic bags will discourage consumers from purchasing them, which may limit pollution in the long run. Plastic bags often wind up cluttering the streets and floating into landfills and waterways.
Those in opposition to the fee believe that it will eventually prove harmful to the urban poor because they are being forced to pay for something that can eventually become an overwhelming expense.
A study titled “Bans versus Fees: Disposable Carryout Bag Policies and Bag Usage” cited evidence that proved that a charge on plastic bags does produce positive effects and results in a sharp decrease of plastic bag usage. However, this does not prevent consumers from turning to another environmentally controversial alternative in lieu of plastic bags.
Consumers may choose paper bags instead, which can still be damaging to ecosystems. Therefore, fees on plastic bags would only breed other problems, such as overreliance on paper products.
A more effective option would be to provide citizens with large, durable plastic bags. Heavyweight plastic bags serve many purposes since they can be used repeatedly. New York City needs to step up in order to combat environmental damage and give away reusable bags to its citizens.
Last year, city officials gave out recyclable bags ahead of the five-cent surcharge that was to be added to all carryout bags, the New York Daily News said. It was an attempt to fight against the plastic bag fee, which was postponed by the leaders of the State Assembly of New York.
Those who believe that the plastic bag fee is a harsh law do not take into account the exemptions they are liable to under this law. Those eligible to be taken under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will be exempt from paying an additional fee.
NPR conducted an interview with Michael Bolinder, a representative for Anacostia Riverkeeper, an advocacy organization working to restore the Anacostia River and create opportunities for the community to connect to the river.
Bolinder stated, “The Anacostia River is an eight-and-a-half-mile long tributary to the Potomac River. It's one of the dirtiest rivers in the United States. As part of our approach to clean up the river, we, actually using money generated from the bag fees, we put some traps in a couple of the streams that are tributaries to the rivers and we capture trash. We take all that trash out, we measure it, we characterize it, and we've noticed that a big percentage of that trash is bags.”
Fees for plastic bags seem like justifiable disciplinary practices that force consumers to be more environmentally conscious. City assistance would ensure that the new law will not be harsh toward poorer citizens.
Considering the fact that global warming and climate change are setting dangerous environmental precedents, it is obvious that something must be done, which makes this is a step in the right direction.