New Yorkers will soon be paying for more than just their groceries when they head to the store.
The City Council on Thursday voted to approve a bill that would charge shoppers a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper bags at grocery stores.The Department of Sanitation projects that the fee could reduce plastic and paper bag waste in the city by approximately 60 percent.
With the bill’s passage, grocery stores will be able to charge at least five cents for each plastic or paper bag used when customers do not bring their own reusable options.
New York City pays an estimated $12.5 million to haul 91,000 tons of plastic and paper bags to landfills in other states each year, City Council spokeswoman Amy Varghese said.
The city’s 8 million residents, plus millions of commuters and visitors use 9.37 billion carry-out bags each year. Varghese said most bags are not recycled.
The proposed bill has been considered to be a controversial one as supporters say that it will help make the city cleaner and protect the environment, while those opposed voice their concerns on the impact on certain communities.
Councilman Steven Matteo, who voted against the bill, said that he believes the bill will not change any behavior and claimed that no matter what, it felt like a tax, DNAinfo reported.
The city will now be required to reach out to residents — primarily in low-income areas — and grocery stores, to inform them of the fee. Stores that do not obey could possibly be fined up to $500.
The bill does feature exemptions to the fee, which includes bags used for medications at pharmacies, anything purchased with food stamps, and bags utilized to transport food from restaurants.
Following the bill’s passage on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he looked forward to signing it into law.
“In OneNYC, my Administration committed to sending Zero Waste to landfills by 2030 – a bold, necessary and achievable goal in pursuit of a more sustainable New York City,” de Blasio said. “Achieving Zero Waste includes significantly reducing the use of plastic bags, which have long clogged our water system, gotten stuck in our trees and littered our city.”
The law is expected to go into effect on Oct. 1.
Reuters contributed to this report.