Court ruling paves way for New York’s plastic bag ban enforcement

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Enforcement of New York’s statewide plastic bag ban will begin next month following a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a plastic bag manufacturer’s lawsuit.

In a Sept. 18 letter filed with the state Supreme Court, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the ban will take effect Oct. 19.

Enforcing the ban, which went into effect in March, encountered roadblocks from the start, the Times Union reported. The measure was implemented as the coronavirus began to spread and raised sanitation concerns with reusable bags carrying bacteria or viruses.

Manufacturers of plastic bags fighting against the ban also sued the state.

Although many stores reinstated use of plastic bags at the beginning of the pandemic, they will have to turn to offering only paper bags to customers who don’t have reusable bags.

“New Yorker’s use a staggering 23 billion plastic bags each year, many of these bags litter our neighborhoods, parks, rivers and ultimately are swept into the ocean,” Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator, told the Times Union. “The law was supposed to take effect on March 1. It is good that it will finally be enforced. After the law is fully enforced, New Yorkers will see a noticeable decline in plastic bag litter in every corner of the state.”

Legal action filed earlier in the year by Long Island-based bag maker PolyPak Industries and other businesses had held up enforcement. They claimed the ban would end up putting them out of business. As the pandemic continued spreading, court action was delayed.

Environmentalists in June urged DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos to begin ban enforcement following the judge’s ruling on the suit.

Last month, state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly said the plaintiffs had not provided a sound case for injunctive relief. Connolly also dismissed the state’s argument for thicker plastic bags.

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