Gristedes manager says plastic bag fee hurts customers
The City Council’s vote to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper shopping bags in stores isn’t sitting well with one supermarket manager, who charged that lawmakers are unfairly “nickel and diming New Yorkers.”
Bob Capano, the manager of a Gristedes supermarket on the Upper East Side, said the council’s May 5 vote “will cost New Yorkers more time and money” at retail stores and supermarkets.
“Cashiers will now have to count each and every bag used by customers so they know how much to add to their bill. This will cause delays and longer lines at registers when customers just want to get home to their families after working all day. This fee on each bag adds up, especially for seniors, those on fixed incomes and middle-class New Yorkers trying to make ends meet. It already costs a fortune to live in New York City and residents and businesses have enough stress and aggravation,” said Capano, a former Bay Ridge resident.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilmembers Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) and Margaret Chin (D-Lower Manhattan), was approved by the council on Thursday by a 28-20 vote.
Capano submitted testimony opposing the bill to the council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, which held hearings on the legislation before sending the bill to the full council for a vote.
Capano, a Republican, said he is strongly considering running for the City Council seat in Bay Ridge when the current council member, Democrat Vincent Gentile, leaves office in 2017 due to term limits.
Gentile voted against the controversial bag fee bill.
In public statements, supporters of the legislation said they took the stand because of concerns over climate change and other environmental issues.
New York City pays an estimated $12.5 million a year to transport 91,000 tons of plastic bags and paper carry-out bags to landfills in other states, according to a press release issued by the City Council. New Yorkers use 9.37 billion carryout bags per year.
Plastic bags get stuck in storm drains, exacerbating flooding and sewage discharges into waterways, and are the fourth most commonly found type of litter on U.S. beaches, according to the council.
The legislation includes informational outreach components and requires giveaways of reusable, recyclable bags in local communities.
The bill allows exemptions for take-out or delivery orders from restaurants, produce and prescription medications. Emergency food providers, like food pantries, are also exempt. And stores must waive the charge for providing bags for customers using food stamps.
“New York has never shied away from the goal of being an environmentally responsible city,” council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “For too long, plastic bags have clogged our storm drains, littered our green spaces and tangled in our trees. With this legislation, we can take a step toward a cleaner and sustainable city by incentivizing New Yorkers to not to add to the billions of carry out bags currently being used each year.”
Lander pointed out that similar legislation in other cities has worked well.
“In city after city, a small fee on single-use carryout bags has been overwhelmingly successful in getting people to bring their own reusable bags when they shop — across lines of race, income and age — and generated a 60 percent to 90 percent drop in plastic bag waste,” he said in a statement.
Lander predicted that the new fee, which begins on Oct. 1, will result in residents changing their habits. “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,” he said.
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