Editorial: Bag the bags

As landfills are increasingly clogged with trash, and the city spends more and more money to truck its refuse over its borders for disposal, finding alternative ways of cutting down on garbage becomes ever more crucial.

To that end, a growing group of city councilmembers has introduced legislation that would require most stores, including supermarkets, bodegas, department stores, drugstores and general merchandise retailers, to charge 10 cents for every paper or plastic bag they provide to customers, with some limited exceptions (specifically, bags from restaurants and liquor stores, and bags for medications from pharmacies).

The goal is to encourage shoppers to bring their own cloth bags with them, minimizing waste and saving taxpayer money – both, in themselves, laudable aims.

But, that’s not all. Cutting down on the number of plastic and paper bags that are distributed has another benefit – a significant reduction in the litter strewn about Brooklyn streets and parks to clog catchbasins and cause flooding, get tangled in trees where they remain, seemingly indefinitely, and pollute our all-too-vulnerable waterways and beaches.

According to BagItNYC — a coalition of not-for-profit organizations, elected officials, merchants and community organizations that support the initiative — approximately 5.2 billion disposable bags, weighing a staggering 100,000 tons, are used by New Yorkers each year.

The cost to the taxpayers to get rid of those bags is $10 million — money that could be better spent on education, public transportation and upkeep of city roadways, to name just a few.

Similar programs instituted elsewhere have proven successful, with the use of plastic bags cut down as much as 90 percent, as residents – many of whom now blithely double and triple-bag their purchases — have a dollars-and-cents motive for increased environmental awareness.

In our mind, that’s a good thing.

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