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New York - NYC Bag Tax Unpopular Among Jewish City Dwellers

Published on: May 6, 2016 01:16 PM
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( Eli Wohl/VINnews.com)( Eli Wohl/VINnews.com)

New York - A bill that would make New York City shoppers pay for every bag they use when making purchases may have met with majority approval in the City Council, but many area residents are giving the recently passed legislation a thumbs down.

Known as The Bag Bill, the legislation was approved yesterday by the City Council after an unusually contentious debate by a vote of 28 to 20.  Councilman David Greenfield, who lobbied strongly against the bill, said it was the closest vote he has ever seen during his six years in the City Council, with emotions running high on both sides.

“I think that the reality is that this is really going to hurt a lot of people,” Greenfield told VIN News.

The Bag Bill was sponsored by Councilman Brad Lander and would levy a five cent per-bag charge on customers who use single use plastic or paper bags when shopping. 


Below Video: NYC Orthodox Jewish Shoppers react to bill.

According to Lander, the legislation is intended to minimize the over 9 billion single use plastic bags that are discarded each year in New York City with more than $12.5 million spent each year to dispose of the bags.  Exempted from the bill are produce, bulk food, dry cleaning, restaurant, liquor store, food pantry, soup kitchen and small paper pharmacy bags.  Food purchases made using SNAP and WIC would also not be subject to the bag penalties, in order to avoid levying additional hardships on low income families.

Critics say that the bill unfairly targets families who are already experiencing financial hardships.

“There is no question that this is a regressive tax,” said Greenfield.  “While it is true that if you are actually using a food stamp card you are exempt, the reality is that food stamps were not intended to cover 100 percent and those people, when they run out of benefits, will have to pay the plastic and paper bag tax when they are the hardest hit.”

The program would also make things extremely difficult for those who don’t qualify for government assistance and are already struggling to make ends meet.

“I will never forget when I would go to the grocery and the people in front of me would be checking out and realizing that the total was too expensive and they would have to return one or two items.  The idea that we are adding a dollar or two, for a piece of legislation that won’t even achieve what the sponsors say it will achieve, is problematic,” noted Greenfield. 

Having studied cities that already have bag taxes in place, Greenfield said that the results have been disappointing and questioned why paper bags were also included in the bill.

“Paper bags should have been encouraged,” said Greenfield. “They are 100 percent biodegradable.”

Councilman Chaim Deutsch was another council member who voted against the Bag Bill.

“This is a tax on low income residents,” said Deutsch. “There are other ways to protect the environment and to reduce the number of bags.  You can educate people about the importance of protecting the environment but taxing isn’t the way to go.”

Deutsch also noted that with the new legislation in place, he expected many more people to have their purchases delivered in boxes, which would only increase double parking, traffic and pollution in the city.  Those who elect to bring their purchases home in reusable bags would likely find them bulkier and more difficult to manage, particularly problematic for senior citizens and those shopping with small children, according to Deutsch.

“This is not only a tax on people but a hardship,” said Deutsch.

State Senator Simcha Felder, who voiced his opposition to a similar plan under the Bloomberg administration several years ago, noted that many people reuse plastic shopping bags and said that the reusable bags, which often contain residue from previous purchases, including juices fish and meat, pose a health risk.

“The CDC talked about the health hazards of bringing bags back to the store,” said Felder. “They found significant increases in health related risks once people were bringing the bags back.  You never bring soda bottles back into the store for exactly the same reason. It is a health hazard and can bring rodents.”

A 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times linked reusable shopping bags that were found to be contaminated with norovirus to an outbreak of diarrhea, vomiting and nausea that swept through a girls’ soccer team, also affecting parents and relatives.

According to a Breitbart article, multiple studies have found the bags to be tainted with bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, fecal coliform and norovirus.  A University of Arizona study examined 84 reusable bags obtained from shoppers in three cities that banned plastic bags and found more than half hosted harmful bacteria, with contaminated bags kept in a car trunk for more than two hours containing significantly higher bacteria levels.

John Schaefer, a spokesperson to Councilman Lander dismissed the notion that the bags were dangerous.

“Every time a city passes a single-use bag reduction bill, the plastic bag industry and their supporters falsely claim that reusable bags are unsafe,” said Schaefer. “Independent analysts like Consumer Reports have debunked these reports. “

“All New Yorkers will start bringing reusable bags to avoid the fee, and together we will drastically cut back on the number of bags we use,” said Schaefer.

Felder, who professed to reusing the bags in his own home, has already passed a bill through the Senate’s Cities Committee that would prohibit any city in New York from imposing a fee on plastic bags, which would effectively quash the New York City bill.  He hopes that the bill will come to a vote on the Senate floor before the current session ends in June and is cautiously optimistic that it will pass.

“The Bag Bill is not a popular bill,” said Felder.  “Environmentalists and the most liberal wealthy districts in the city are saving the world on our backs. They are literally nickel and diming people to death.”

Assemblyman Michael Cusik who is sponsoring a companion bill in the Assembly said that while he understands that the legislation was created with the best of intentions, it is unfair to middle class families.

“There could be other ways to get what they want,” said Cusik.  “One example might be giving a tax credit incentive to businesses who phase in a program that at some point might eliminate bags.  Give a positive program to result in cutting plastic bags but going at it and penalizing consumers and residents of the city is not the way to go about it.”

Proponents of the bill say that it is all about educating consumers.

Greenfield took umbrage at those who insisted that if consumers began carrying a reusable bag in their pockets, they would have no problem adjusting to the new legislation.

“You are one person, who is single, without any kids, you eat out every day, you go shopping once a week,” said Greenfield. “You buy half a dozen eggs and a half a gallon of milk. In communities like mine we have people who have six, seven, eight, nine, ten kids. What are they supposed to do, store 50 reusable bags in their house?”

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Read Comments (12)  —  Post Yours »


 May 06, 2016 at 02:31 PM Oyvey Says:

Firstly, many, if not most, bags in NYC are re-used either as garbage bags or as "pooper scooper" bags. People will need to buy more regular plastic bags for their smaller trash cans so no gain there.

The grocers may have a loop hole. The grocer gets to keep the nickel. Therefore, while they will have to charge for the bags they can then offer the customer a "good shopping" rebate equal to the 5 cent cost of each bag.


 May 06, 2016 at 03:43 PM mythoughts Says:

How could this be a tax if the money is staying with store? Perhaps it needs to be funneled to the de Blasio campaign coffers.


 May 06, 2016 at 03:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Suppositley the 5 cents goes to the store owner. Why don't all the grocery store sjuts lower prices by five cents and everyone is happy.


 May 06, 2016 at 03:54 PM Anonymous Says:

This si what happens when you have idiotic democrats in charge! Thanks, Mayor deblaaaahhsio!


 May 06, 2016 at 04:53 PM mewhoze Says:

when shopping for a lot at once, we should all request boxes till they tax that too


 May 06, 2016 at 07:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Each bag costs our corner grocer 3.5 cents, so he'll come out ahead. Most of us will just ignore the extra nickels, just like we did with the bottle deposits.


 May 07, 2016 at 06:25 PM jack-l Says:

Shavua tov and Chodesh tov. Stores in Toronto were mandated to do this by law and have been doing this for years.
The bags are reused at home for garbage, lunch bags dirty laundry.. etc.
The stores are making a good profit and free advertisement . he more "jewish" stores sell bags for the same 5 cents with the strength of a wet tissue.
The goal of cutting down the amount plastic bags in our garbage dumps. by charging for them never materialized.


 May 07, 2016 at 10:27 PM Anonymous Says:

We have been required to pay the 5 cent charge here in Kensington for several years and it clearly has changed people's habits and reduced the amount of plastic bags ending up in landfills and streams. Most importantly, for yidden this bill would provide an opportunity to pursue the big mitzvah of tikun olam.


 May 07, 2016 at 11:45 PM lmaanhaemes Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

We have been required to pay the 5 cent charge here in Kensington for several years and it clearly has changed people's habits and reduced the amount of plastic bags ending up in landfills and streams. Most importantly, for yidden this bill would provide an opportunity to pursue the big mitzvah of tikun olam.

Which siman in shulchan aruch is the requirement or necessity of Tikkun Olam mandated? The only place I know about is Lesaken Olam Bemalchus Sha-dai; which has nothing to do with shopping bags or conservation- but for some reason the conservative and reform(liberal) movements have taken on as Halacha Lemoshe Misinai...


 May 08, 2016 at 02:04 AM Anonymous Says:

We are required to use reusable bags in LA or pay a 10 cent tax...
Here is what happened:
- businesses on the border to another city lost revenue as people just crossed the street and shopped there. So stores (and the income!) moved as well.
- huge rates of food poisoning were seen. People reuse the bags to carry lunch in. So after having meat juice spill on the bag, they are using it to carry their lunch.
- to combat the bacteria, we have to wash our bags in the washing machine WHILE WE ARE IN A DROUGHT!!!! So now we are using a lot more water and flushing soaps and other toxins into the water system. Great....
- people don't have bags to wrap their dirty diapers in or pick up dog poop when outside. So those are just dropped in trash cans (open to the air) where animals are getting to them and it is gross and unhealthy! People pay for the bags so they don't want to "waste it" on a single diaper...
- there are still tons of plastic bags in the streets and garbage. But now the bags are required by law to be thicker- so it's just more plastic being wasted!!

I don't mind using the reusable ones for dry goods I buy- toilet paper, soap and sealed packages. But if I am buying produce, chicken, meat or fish items- I should be allowed to get one bag free!! I will reuse the bags anyways for my trash can liners and other uses...


 May 09, 2016 at 02:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Council-idiot Brad Lander represents a good part of Boro Park and Kessington; this tax was his idea. Therefore, it is incumbent that since Lander instigated and voted for this tax, that he gets voted out of office - he is up for re-election in a little more than a year. And perhaps he should be investigated to determined if he was paid off for pushing what amounts is a tax which will hurt large families, the poor and elderly indiscriminately. Did the retail lobbyists raised money for his election campaign? Are they donating money for his re-election fund? I was in Washington last week and left my hotel to go shopping - guess what, I had no bag with me and it cost me an extra 30 cents (doubled bags were needed). Imagine the typical family shopping for Shabbos - 50 bags a week - and with other shopping, it will take about $400 a year out of our income. Add this to the high cost of living in New York, who needs to have to pay this additional fee which is really a tax?

For the record, after unpacking, most people do find other uses for our plastic store shopping bags, including using them to tie up our garbage, clean up after the


 May 10, 2016 at 11:38 AM Harry Says:

The voters will have their say about this bag tax in about 15 months - when we vote in the Democratic Primary. For all those who actually thinks this is a benefit, then we know who you will be voting for. For those majority who will be adversely affected - we are talking as much as $500 per year for an average size family- let's vote the creeps out.The Jewish community can't vote all the 28 creeps who have saddled us with this tax out of office, but we the numbers to vote Lander and his side-kick Jumaane Williams (who represents parts of Midwood, Ditmas Park, Marine Park and Flatbush) out of office. If Lander and Williams and the rest think its a good idea, then let them move to Washington and run for city council there.
And the same with DeBlasio, if he signs this bill (although he may be headed there anyway if Hillary wins as she is going to need a good man for Secretary of State).

It will be interesting to see if Landers, Williams and the other 26 of the city council who voted for this bill will be receiving campaign contributions from the lobbyists who shoved this tax on all of New York?


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