City Hall – Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Council Members Peter Vallone, Jr. and Michael McMahon today called on Governor Paterson to block State legislation that would preempt and weaken the City Council’s plastic bag recycling law. The State version of the City Council’s bill would dramatically reduce the number of stores in New York City required to recycle plastic carryout bags. In addition, it would eliminate the City’s ability to enforce any bag recycling law or ensure that businesses are in compliance.

“While I commend the State Legislature for following our lead and passing a statewide bill, the current version would cripple New York City’s ability to implement an effective and comprehensive bag recycling program,” said Speaker Quinn. “I am disappointed that the State would take such action without consulting the City Council, especially as our law is scheduled to take effect in a matter of weeks. This will only add confusion to the many businesses working to comply with our law. I urge Governor Paterson to veto the current legislation, and work with the City Council and State Legislature to maintain our stronger version of this law.”

“Albany cannot seem to take one step forward without taking two steps back. It’s great that they have enacted statewide plastic bag legislation, but it’s terrible that they have significantly weakened our law and have restricted the right of New York City and others to do even more,” said Peter F. Vallone Jr., who introduced the City Council’s plastic bag recycling bill. “Albany is not just recycling our ideas, but also throwing our authority into the landfill.”

“The State’s legislation, while well intentioned, will undermine the hard work of the Council and advocate community to bring far reaching plastic bag recycling to New York City,” said Sanitation Committee Chair Michael McMahon. “And by taking the power of enforcement out of local hands, they are all but ensuring that this legislation will go ignored. Governor Paterson can not allow the current legislation to become law.”

Specific ways in which the State bill would weaken the City’s law include:

The State bill would preempt the City from taking stronger action on bag recycling, now or at any future point.
While the Council’s law applies to stores of 5,000 square feet or more and to chains under a common name, the State bill only applies to stores 10,000 square feet or more, and to chains under common ownership or management. The 5,000 square feet requirement is better suited to the City’s needs, as stores tend to be much smaller than in other parts of the State.
The State bill only applies to plastic carryout bags. The Council’s law also required the recycling of film plastic, such as package wrap, dry cleaning bags and newspaper bags.
The Council’s law has clear responsibilities for manufacturers of plastic bags. They must, upon the request of a store owner to whom they sell plastic bags, make arrangements for the collection, transport and recycling of plastic pursuant to the provisions of the law. Under the State law, there appears to be no manufacturer obligation to collect, transport or recycle bags.