Joining the ranks of a growing number of cities and communities across the United States and around the globe, New York City will soon move to limit the use of plastic bags in the retail and grocery sectors. On May 5, 2016, a plastic bag fee bill (Intro. No. 209-A, 2014) was passed by City Council, and it is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio soon.

Some jurisdictions have enacted bans, and others have instituted charges or taxes that are remitted to the government. New York City’s bill calls for a fee (five cents per bag) to be retained by retailers, to offset the cost of the bags. It is estimated that more than nine billion plastic bags are provided to customers in New York City each year, and it is anticipated that institution of the fee may reduce that number by 60 percent. Certain exemptions from the fee are built into the law: restaurant takeout/delivery, retail produce and prescription medication sales are all exempt, as are emergency food providers.

New York City’s plastic bag bill is the most recent reflection of how mandated consumer packaging waste reduction is, culturally as well as legally, becoming an accepted sustainability tool. Voluntary waste reduction measures are also being increasingly implemented in the private sector by corporate sustainability leaders such as Unilever.