Nickel and dimed! Councilman: Lander renews push for plastic-bag fee, drops price from 10 cents to 5

Bag happy: Margaret Acco and her daughter Kali would rather not see the Park Slope Food Co-op stop providing the plastic roll bags commonly used for bagging produce.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This pol is slashing prices to sell his bill!

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) is reviving his long-stalled legislation to put a fee on plastic and paper bags at stores, but has now reportedly cut the previously planned charge from 10 cents per sack to 5 cents — and the new low, low price has won over enough of his colleagues to pass, according to one councilman.

“They think a five-cent charge will be more sell-able,” said Councilman James Vacca (D–Bronx), who vehemently opposes the plan but confirmed the proposed new price structure following a report by Politico New York, and says he believes it now has the support of enough members to succeed.

Lander refused to discuss the ongoing negotiations — though a rep noted that the current version of the bill, which has been languishing in the Council’s Sanitation Committee since 2014, still has the charge at 10 cents — but said he hopes to pass it by Earth Day on April 22.

“This is the right time to do it,” said Lander, whose devotion to the cause earned him the nickname “10-cent Lander” in a 2014 City Council versus City Hall softball game.

The bill currently has 22 sponsors and needs four more to win a majority thumbs up.

The proposal boasts plenty of support in Lander’s People’s Republic of Park Slope, but some Council members representing large numbers of low-income and elderly constituents have fought it in the past, arguing those who can least spare the spare-change will be the ones who end up shelling out the most.

Vacca says many of those folks take the bus or walk to do their food shopping and have to double-bag their groceries so the thin plastic doesn’t split on the way, and the extra charge will do nothing but hurt them financially.

“This is nothing but a highly regressive fee,” he said.

But some eco-friendly Slopers say they don’t believe charge won’t hurt poor residents financially, because it will encourage them to ditch plastic bags entirely and switch to alternative carrying methods.

The famously crunchy Park Slope Food Co-op banished plastic bags in 2008 — though controversially nixed a proposed 20-cent fee on plastic produce bags a few years back — and one worker claims members from all walks of life have found other ways to carry groceries around in the intervening eight years.

“We have a very diverse population around here, and we haven’t had any problems since going bagless,” said general coordinator Ann Herpel.

Herpel said shoppers just use tote bags and cardboard boxes instead.

“People get creative,” she said. “They figure out ways to get things home.”

But some Brooklynites say they would just shoulder the extra fee and keep using the plastic sacks.

“I would [pay],” said Julius Nemcow of Flatbush. “I wouldn’t like it, but I would get the bag so I won’t spill my stuff everywhere.”

Anti-plastic bag group Bag it New York City — a coalition that includes the co-op and a host of environmental groups — rallied in front of City Hall on April 13 demanding Council and Mayor DeBlasio pass Lander’s legislation. — with Anna Ruth Ramos

Reach reporter Madeline Anthony by e-mail at manthony@cnglocal.com or by pnone at (718) 260–8321.
Cash and carry: Councilman Brad Lander wants to charge you 10 cents — maybe 5 cents — for a plastic bag.
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

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