Earlier in February, Governor Andrew Cuomo blocked legislation that would have imposed a fee on each and every plastic bag sold in New York State.
Cuomo made this decision just days before the controversial bill was set to go into law. After calling the law “deeply flawed,” Cuomo decided to exercise his veto power; however, not for the reasons you might think. The governor blocked the law because it allowed each merchant to pocket a mandatory 5-cent fee for each plastic bag. This would amount to a giveaway of around $100 million a year to local businesses, and according to Cuomo, wouldn’t necessarily benefit anyone besides the individual merchants.
“I understand the political process to pass a bill can require placating potential opposition, but a $100 million bonus to private companies is beyond the absurd,” Cuomo explained in a statement, the New York Times reported.
The governor has promised to form a statewide task force with the sole purpose of creating a solution to the plastic bag problem facing New York. Cutting down on plastic consumption via plastic bags is only one small step in fixing the world’s plastic pollution problem, which is wreaking havoc on rivers, lakes, and oceans. To put the issue into perspective, the world makes and consumes about 600 billion pounds of plastic yearly, with the market growing by about 5% each year.
Part of Cuomo’s argument for blocking the bill was that the New York City Council only narrowly passed the bill, which means there was contention already surrounding the practice. However, this rejection was not taken lightly by the bill’s sponsors.
“We fought plastic bags, and for now, plastic bags won,” City Council members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin said in a joint statement. Both Lander and Chin explained that plastic bags take a while to biodegrade and are full of pollutants.
Even though most plastics can be easily recycled, many plastic bags end up in landfills and waterways.
Additionally, New York State’s top environmental association is asking Cuomo to go one step further in any subsequent plastic bag ban. The State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced publicly that he would support a ban on plastic bags altogether throughout New York City and has urged Governor Cuomo to consider this as the next step.