Capitol Notes

Plastic bag restrictions effectively on hold until July

Enforcement of the state law restricting single-use plastic bags likely won’t take effect until the middle of July at the earliest.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has repeatedly delayed full implementation of the 2019 law as the result of a pending lawsuit from a plastic bag manufacturer and New York City bodegas, with the latest agreement between the parties prohibiting any enforcement action until June 15.

But in reality, enforcement won’t begin until the state gives the court and petitioners 30-days notice, which they can’t do until June 15, according to the DEC. This interpretation was confirmed by a group of environmental activists, who are urging the state not to delay enforcement further.

“The plastics industry has utilized every tool in the book to halt and delay actions to reduce plastic pollution,” said Liz Moran, environmental policy director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“Over the past couple months, some stores have brought back plastic bags. With New Yorkers contributing 23 billion plastic bags into the waste stream every year, implementing and enforcing New York’s plastic bag ban is crucial,” Moran said. “DEC must provide notice on June 15th and be prepared to enforce New York’s plastic bag ban as soon as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse to worsen the plastic pollution crisis.”

Enforcement was initially delayed past the law’s March 1 implementation date because of the state’s delayed release of regulations implementing the measure. During the pandemic, the DEC has continued to educate the public and stores about the law and has been distributing reusable bags.


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