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Good Question: What's happening with plastic bag ban and deliveries?

Brennan Somers
Updated: January 06, 2020 03:23 PM
Created: January 06, 2020 06:11 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It is one of the biggest changes hitting New York this year and it affects everyone who goes grocery shopping. We’re talking about the ban on plastic bags.

We've covered this a lot, but a viewer wanted an answer to a certain key question. News10NBC’s Brennan Somers got some answers.

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Starting in March, apart from just a few exceptions, those single-use plastic carryout bags we all get from grocery stores will be banned in New York.

A viewer named Lindsay wanted to know: what does this mean for grocery pickup and delivery? Brennan found out that answer is a little complicated, so let’s start with what we do know. 

The plastic bag ban got tossed around for years before it finally passed in 2019. Supporters say the law is needed to save the environment in a state where some 23 billion bags are used annually.

Anyone or any place required to collect a New York sales tax will be barred from issuing single-use plastic bags. Local cities and counties can opt in to mandate a five-cent fee on paper bags handed out at stores but that hasn’t happened locally.

New Monroe County Executive Adam Bello offered his position in this statement.

"I believe strongly in the need for our community to lead the way in environmental protection and taking steps to mitigate the effects of our changing climate. The state ban on the use of plastic bags that will go into effect in the coming year is a step in the right direction. However, I have no plans to introduce the optional paper bag fee that accompanies the measure. While I’m in favor of efforts to encourage the use of reusable bags, adding another fee is not the right way to go about it."

So if lawmakers skip out on putting a paper bag fee on the books as a mandate, can companies charge for them anyway?

That answer is yes.

But will any do it? What about deliveries?

Tops made the following announcement on Monday:

"Tops plans to continue to stay the course and follow the proposed law of March 1, 2020. This will allow our shoppers time to make necessary adjustments. As it stands today our shoppers have a wide selection of bags to choose from including our reusable bags and our Tops totes for Change bags where a portion of the proceeds go back to local charities in the community. When the law goes into effect in March we will continue to offer our customers paper bag options for five center with a portion of the proceeds going back to local charities that are in alignment with our mission of eradicating hunger and improving the lives of children."

Delivery service Instacart says it will keep working with partners to follow all local bag rules for deliveries as they are bagged in-store.

Early on Wegmans was a big critic of the plastic bag ban. Back in 2018, a Wegmans spokesperson released the following statement.

"It has long been Wegmans’ position that unintended consequences come from banning anything," adding that a statewide plastic-bag ban would "likely lead to an increase in the use of paper bags, which is not what’s best for the environment. Paper bags are heavier and take up more space; it takes seven tractor-trailers to transport the same number of paper bags as plastic bags carried by one tractor-trailer. It also takes about 90 percent more resources and energy to make and recycle paper compared to plastic."

It has since tried to get in front of this change, by getting rid of plastic bags at two stores in Corning and Ithaca during a trial run promoting reusable bags. The company plans to phase the plastic ones out all across the state before the ban becomes official.

Over the past week, News10NBC has been speaking with Wegmans officials about the five-cent paper bag fee, and if they'll still charge it as well.

The company will stop giving out plastic bags on Jan. 27. Wegmans will still charge five cents for paper bags, even in areas without a local mandate. That money will go to food banks. A spokesperson says the paper bag fee will not apply to pickups or deliveries.


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