Grocery shoppers in New York City may soon have to pay 10 US cents for each plastic or paper bag as America's largest city joins a growing green movement.
The city council on Wednesday introduced a bill to impose the fee in an effort to spur customers to bring their own reusable bags. Supporters of the bill say it will benefit both the city's economy and its environment.
"The bags get stuck in storm drains, they cause flooding and they litter our beaches," Manhattan councillor Margaret Chen, one of the legislation's co-sponsors, said during a news conference on the City Hall steps.
"And they cost New York City a lot of money."
New York residents use 1 billion disposable plastic bags every year and it costs the city US$10 million annually to ship used bags to landfills, according to supporters of the bill.
The measure is expected to be voted upon within the next few weeks. If it is passed, New York will join other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington in their efforts to curb their residents' use of plastic bags.
The 10-cent fee will not be imposed as a tax. Rather, the money raised from the sales of the bags will benefit the store owners who supply them.
Some business owners have complained that the fee could keep shoppers away. A similar measure introduced last summer failed to gather the necessary support and had to be re-introduced in front of the new council, which took office in January. Nineteen council members are co-sponsoring the new bill, seven short of the votes needed for it to be passed.
Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said on Wednesday she would have to review the bill before determining her position. Her close ally, Mayor Bill de Blasio, stopped short of endorsing the bill a day earlier, but said reducing the number of plastic bags was "a societal goal."
"The plastic bags are a problem, and our goal has to be to reduce the use of plastic bags," de Blasio said.