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Preparing for the plastic bag ban: DEC Commissioner says this month is about raising awareness


Next month, single-use plastic bags will be banned in New York State. The final comment period closed Monday for the specifics of the ban, including the how thick a plastic bag needs to be to not be considered single-use.

New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags each year, according the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The ban on single-use plastic bags is aimed at reducing plastic pollition across the state.

Critics, though, say not enough has been done to prepare shoppers and retailers, but the state says this month is about raising awareness about the bag ban.

“I think you have pockets of the state where you have perfect awareness” about the bag ban, says Seggos. Some of the larger chains, like Wegmans in western New York, have already banned single-use plastic bags and are charging 5 cents for paper bags.

Some of the smaller chains and more rural regions across the state, though, have not been as proactive, “which was expected,” Seggos says.

This month the DEC says it will distribute 250,000 reusable bags across the state to raise awareness about the ban. Seggos says the DEC will also host educational events around New York.

“You don’t want to do it too early because then people forget again,” Seggos says. “You want to kind of get it in the last few weeks before [the ban] happens and then one big push at the end.”

The ban officially goes into effect Mar. 1, but Seggos says there will be a transition period still focused on educating retailers and shoppers.

“It never helps, when you’re enforcing a new law, to come out guns blazing with enforcement,” says Seggos.
DEC accepted public comment through Feb. 3 on the specifics of the regulation, including how thin a plastic bag has to be to be considered “single-use.” According to the Times Union, environmental advocates worry those specifics will lead manufacturers to produce thicker bags that shoppers will use as if they were disposable.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy from the Capital Disctrict says there’s a lack of awareness about the upcoming change, but Commissioner Seggos says thats what this month and the first few months of the ban will focus on.

“We need to make sure the implementation of this law is flawless” says Seggos, before the DEC gets strict on enforcement and considers an even stricter plastic ban for New York State.

“Can we move ultimately off plastic eventually? I hope so,” Seggos says.

This article was originally published by EMILY RUSSELL,

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