By Alison Fox
Updated March 02, 2020
person carrying plastic bag
Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Stringer via Getty

New York became the latest state to ban plastic bags over the weekend in an effort to combat climate change and plastic waste

The effort, CNN reported, went into effect on Sunday but won’t be legally enforced until at least April 1. It also allows stores to charge a 5-cent fee for paper bags. 

"Right this minute, plastic bags are hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, filling up our landfills and polluting our lakes, rivers and streams—all hurting our environment," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement last month. "Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We took bold action to protect our environment and ban these environmental blights and with this campaign we're going to make sure New Yorkers are ready and have all the facts."

The ban makes New York one of eight states that have enacted legislation to nix single-use plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont. In 2014, California became the first state to do so, banning the bags at large retail stores.

“Tell ‘em bag, bye.... We don’t have time for toxic energy in 2020, including plastic bags,” the New York City mayor’s office tweeted ahead of the ban going into effect, adding: “Is 15 minutes of convenience worth 1,000 years of waste? Banning plastic bags is a small change we can make that will have a HUGE impact.”

The ban will apply to plastic bags at grocery stores and other shops, but things like plastic bags at meat counters, for prescription drugs and for dry cleaning will be exempt. Restaurant takeout bags are also not included, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Jim Calvin, the president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, told CNN ahead of the ban that the “shortage and rising cost of the paper bags that were supposed to be the inexpensive alternative to plastic for consumers who neglect to bring their own reusable bag," was an issue. 

Cities are not the only places to ban single-use plastic. Last year, the San Francisco International Airport became the first airport in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic water bottles.