The New York City Council passed a plastic bag bill this afternoon; the vote was 44 to 2. (See Anne Barnard's coverage in the NY Times City Room Blog.)
I missed the vote, but was at City Hall earlier in the day, lending my body to a lobbying effort for the e-waste bill (Intro 104) coming up for a vote on the 30th.
I was excited to attend the press conference announcing the expected passage of the plastic bag bill.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn credited environmental groups and the administration for the bill's rapid passage. She gave more praise to industry, for working with the bill's supporters and creating broad-based support. Bag manufacturers group The Progressive Bag Alliance and NY state grocery industry trade association Food Industry Alliance, Quinn said, "made the bill better".
Once signed into law by the mayor (expected to be a non-issue), stores larger than 5000 square feet and chains with more than 5 stores will offer drop-off boxes for recycled bags. Stores will sell reusable bags, and plastic bags will be imprinted with language indicating that they should be returned for recycling.
Retailers will be required to make arrangements with recyclers for pickup. Queens Council Member Peter Vallone remarked on a robust secondary market for plastic bags, which he said were recycled into plastic lumber decking.
When questioned on the cost to retailers, Vallone stated that the city expects retailers to profit by selling bags to recyclers. "I'm more concerned about the cost of not doing it...for our children and our children's great-great grandchildren."
Retailers will be fined for non-participation. (But the city will be counting on us to call 311 to report violations.)
Quinn said that NYC residents use 1 billion plastic bags each year, and remarked, "The city's flower should not be a plastic bag eternally blossoming in a tree".
On a related note, China has put a plastic bag manufacturing ban in place, with a ban on usage of some bags to go into effect on June 1.
A year down the road, the Council will evaluate the results of this action.
(Photo of Speaker Quinn from the City Council website -- this is silly, but there I was at a press conference, almost this close to the action, and I couldn't bear to bring my camera phone out to take my own photo, figuring I'd be outed as an imposter, and not an actual member of the press! Sigh.)