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State, Advocates Say They Need Help To Enforce N.Y.’s Plastic Bag Ban

Day Donaldson

Now that New York State has begun enforcement of its plastic bag ban, following an unsuccessful lawsuit by the plastics industry, the state’s environmental agency and an advocacy group want to know whether stores are complying.

Many of the state’s retail chains have already taken steps to eliminate the single use plastic bags, which were technically banned since March 1st of this year. Some stores are offering paper bags instead, but many are charging a fee to receive the paper bags.

Environmentalists including former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck are relieved that the law is finally being enforced.

“It could not come day too soon,” said Enck. “New Yorkers use a staggering 23 billion plastic bags every year.”

The bags end up in landfills and as litter.

Enck, who heads Beyond Plastics at Vermont’s Bennington College, has set up space on the group’s website to track compliance with the new law, and whether the state Department of Environmental Conservation is diligently enforcing the ban.

The state’s DEC is also asking for the public’s help, to tell them on their website, if they witness stores violating the law.

The penalty for each violation is $250; that amount would double if there is a second violation in less than a year.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.