City council lawmakers overruled environmental legislation that would instruct store owners to charge at least a nickel for single-use shopping bags, saying it hurts low income residents.
1. Some New York City lawmakers believe plastic bag fees hurt low-income people
In May last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council instructed store owners to charge at least one nickel for single-use shopping bags.
The measure has been now overruled by state lawmakers, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who argued that it is "deeply flawed" because it hurts low- and middle-income residents – all the while creating a profit for store owners.
2. No to the fees, yes to a task force on the impact of plastic bags
Cuomo, who signed a proposal to postpone the bag fee on Tuesday, announced a task force would report on the impact of plastic bags by the end of the year.
"It is a statewide challenge," he said. "As such, a statewide solution is the most appropriate way to address this issue."
But some are sceptical.
"Let us be clear: a task force that does not lead to a robust statewide law is not an acceptable consolation prize," New York League of Conservation Voters president Marcia Bystryn said.
3. Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan applauded the moratorium on the bag tax
"We take these issues very seriously and will continue to work collectively toward solutions that preserve our cherished natural resources without placing new burdens on hardworking people," Flanagan said in a statement.
"If allowed to go forward, this onerous bag tax would have hurt low- and middle-income residents the most, making it even more difficult to make ends meet in what is already the most expensive city in the world."
4. The fee was actually based on evidence
New York City Councilman Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat and one of the sponsors of the bag fee legislation, said council members spent two years researching, promoting and creating a process to address the 91,000 tons of solid waste caused by plastic bags in the city each year.
"We fought plastic bags. And for now, plastic bags won," he said. "They are stubborn and toxic forms of solid waste. They never biodegrade, so they pollute our trees, oceans, and landfills forever. And they are hard to dislodge from the state legislature, too."
5. The fee plan included distribution of reusable bags and an exemption for shoppers using food stamps
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, championed the bag fee as a way to reduce litter and protect the environment.
The city planned to distribute hundreds of thousands of reusable shopping bags to help with the adjustment, and shoppers using food stamps would not have to pay the fee.
Several cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago, have either banned single-use plastic bags or imposed a fee.