April 22, 2020
By Christopher Paskas
On March 1, New York became the second in the nation to implement a statewide ban on plastic bags. While plastic bags can no longer be given out for free, stores are allowed to sell a plastic bag to customers for five cents.
While enforcement of the plastic ban was supposed to begin on April 1, it got pushed back to May 15 because of a lawsuit filed by New York business owners who argue they did not have enough time to prepare for the change.
Junior Faiza Chowdhury, who has been president of the Environmental Club for two years, said New York’s plastic bag ban is a major step in the right direction.
“Plastic bags are almost always unnecessary and damage the earth for millennia, so this one ban will hopefully encourage other states, towns and municipalities to see how they can reduce their own waste,” Chowdhury said.
She said she hopes New Jersey adopts a plastic bag ban similar to that of New York.
“Many towns in New Jersey have already banned plastic bags, including Paramus, Garfield and Bayonne,” Chowdury said. “New York’s government banned plastic bags because they see the damage it is doing on the environment,” Chowdhury said. “The 23 billion plastic bags in New York City take thousands of years to decompose, and until then, it makes its way into waterways, animals’ stomachs and into landfills. The convenience that sometimes comes with a plastic bag is not worth killing the environment for.”
While Chowdhury said she believes New Jersey would benefit from a plastic bag ban, she said gradual implementation would be best.
“Gradual implementation would help the transition for the public so people get used to either bringing their own bag or paying for the damage done to the environment,” Chowdhury said.
As in New York, Chowdury said store owners should be required to charge a small fee to customers who want a plastic bags.
“It is how store owners offset the cost of buying fewer bags rather than in bulk, and it encourages people to switch to paper or reusable bags,” Chowdhury said.
While Chowdhury regards plastic bag bans as generally advantageous, she said some people may view it as problematic.
“I can see how a ban on plastic bags may be difficult for store owners in the short term as well as families living on welfare or under the poverty line. Five dollars for a reusable bag may not seem like a lot to you or me, but for a lower-income family, it can mean everything,” Chowdhury said.
Like Chowdury, junior Iris Gonzales, who has been a member of the Environmental Club for two years, said she believes New York’s plastic bag ban is a good idea.
“New York took California’s initiative in order to be more eco-friendly, help conserve our planet and keep our animals’ environment clean,” Gonzalez said.
She said New Jersey should adopt the same type of ban as New York.
“Having two neighboring states with a ban on plastic bags would have a greater impact in our environment,” Gonzales said. “The charge for plastic bags is to encourage consumers to not buy the plastic bags, but instead bring their own eco-friendly bags…. Next time they go out and buy things that require a bag, they will know to bring their own in order to save money.”
Gonzales said plastic bag manufactures are among those who may suffer because of the plastic bag ban.
“Bans reduce the demand for plastic and can completely make a manufacturer’s company go out of business. It also means a little more of an expense for consumers who do not have alternative carry-out bag options,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said she brings recyclable bags with her when she knows she is going to need them.
“If I don’t, I’ll get a paper bag from the store since paper can be less harmful to the environment, and it can be easily recycled,” Gonzales said.
Advisor of the Environmental Club Ms. Manzella also said she supports New York’s new legislation.
“It is a positive step in trying to change our culture from being heavily reliant on one-time-use plastics. With New York having a large population and a lot of businesses, this can have a huge impact,” Manzella said.
She said the plastic bag ban is cost-effective for both store owners and customers.
“Stores will not have to invest so much in buying and providing plastic bags. Also, stores can sell their own reusable bags or just charge only the customers who do opt to use plastic bags,” Manzella said. “I do not think banning plastic bags alone is enough to help save our planet, but I think that it will help reduce our environmental impact…. I am a big believer in the idea that a number of small changes made by the population can lead to big impacts.”
Manzella said each day she tries to live by the motto: “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”
She said even though plastic bags are recyclable, they often do not get recycled and instead wind up in landfills or as litter.
“They are not biodegradable, they take a long time to break down and can have an adverse effect on wildlife when they enter the environment, or they can clog drainage,” Manzella said. “I actually think that this is a great way to go about reducing the number of plastic bags people use and ease people into changing their habits.”