New York plastic bag ban takes effect, customers 'not happy'

Customers are 'not happy,' supermarket manager says

The New York law banning so-called single-use plastic bags took effect Sunday, with some customers balking at the new rules.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio's office celebrated the law with a graphic reading "buh bye."

"Sending a big farewell to single-use plastic bags," the mayor's office wrote. "We've moved on to eco-friendly reusable bags and we're not looking back."

New York became one of only a handful of states to outlaw plastic bags when lawmakers approved the ban last year as part of a new state budget. Under the new law, local counties will have the option of imposing a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 3 cents going to the state's Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents kept by local governments.

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Enforcement, however, will not begin until April 1, and a plastic bag manufacturer and New York City bodega owners are challenging the law at the state Supreme Court.

A cash register attendant looks at a sign that reads "Plastic Bags Ban" in a grocery store in New York on Feb. 26. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Stores busted selling the banned bags would face a verbal reprimand, then a $100 fine for a second violation and a $500 fine for a third infraction.

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last year that going without plastic bags will be a "minor inconvenience" compared to the devastating impact of plastic pollution. State figures estimate that New Yorkers now use 23 billion single-use plastic bags each year.

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"By 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish," Cuomo said in April 2019. "You would have to be blind not to see what's going on with our environment."

In this March 27, 2019 file photo, a man leaves a supermarket in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan carrying his groceries in a plastic bag. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Certain bags, like food storage or pharmacy drug bags are exempt. And people using government nutrition programs like SNAP or WIC are exempt from the 5-cent paper carryout bag fee.

"Using reusable bags makes sense and is the right thing to do," according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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But some customers were not happy Sunday with the new rules.

"People don't want to hear this," a Manhattan supermarket manager told the New York Post. "They're not happy. At least I have a month to break them in. We're trying to get cheap mesh bags for them. We'll see."

In this March 27, 2019, file photo, oranges and tomatoes are displayed for sale alongside a roll of plastic bags at a supermarket in New York City's East Village. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

"I was totally shocked," Target shopper Richie Alvarez, 49, told the Post. "This is what our world is coming to. Yeah, they charged me extra for the bag. That's why I only took one. It would normally be two or three bags."

In a January 2019 paper published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor found that plastic bag bans in cities did reduce plastic bag use there, but that garbage bag sales "skyrocketed" because people still need to pick up dog poop or line trash bins, she told NPR.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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