Long-delayed plastic bag ban takes effect in New York

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — It's been a long and winding road to get here.

From a bill signing in April 2019, to a lawsuit, to a pandemic, New York state will start enforcing its ban on plastic bags at retail stores starting Monday.

Liz Moran with the New York Public Interest Research Groups said streets and the environment overall will be getting cleaner with the plastic bag ban.

"It is notorious to see plastic bags caught in trees, drifting along streets," Moran said. "There's really no more excuses, it's absolutely well beyond time to be enforcing this law."

Even now, Eve Gartner, with Earthjustice, says the plastic industry is still trying to call things off.

"The industry is not letting go of this that easily," Gartner said.

Still more suits are on the way from business groups worried about the financial burden, but Moran doesn't think it's a big economic hit.

"Not purchasing plastic bags can save stores money. One less thing for them to have to purchase," Moran said.

Enforcement begins with a warning to stores caught giving out plastic bags, then fines for subsequent offenses start at $250.

"Plastic is toxic throughout it's entire life cycle and it's terrible for the environment and for human health," Gartner said.

Rumors about reusable bags being a risk in a pandemic are nothing more than hearsay, Gartner says.

"There's no evidence that any kind of disease has ever been spread through reusable bags," Gartner said.

Plastic bags are still allowed for things like takeout food, prescription drugs and newspapers.

In New Jersey, lawmakers are looking to go a step further, sending a bill to Gov. Phil Murphy that bans both plastic and paper bags.