State lawmakers and environmental advocates on Monday urged legislative leaders in the Assembly and state Senate to pass a bill that would require some companies to decrease single-use packaging by 50% over the next 12 years.
This year’s legislative session, originally scheduled to end Thursday, has been extended to Friday, and there is a typical flurry of energy to pass all types of legislation before lawmakers leave Albany until next year.
New York’s legislative session typically runs from January to June each year. State lawmakers have been known to return for an extraordinary session if they deem it necessary, such as when they returned last July after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
The “Packaging Reduction & Recycling Infrastructure Act” would require companies that sell packaged goods to reduce single-use plastic products by half and charge them a fee to use them. The funds would go towards local governments to help fund waste reduction efforts and recycling programs. New York City estimates it will receive about $150 million from these new fees.
The bill is sponsored by chairs of both the Assembly and state Senate Environmental Conservation committees, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, and state Sen. Peter Harckham, D-South Salem. Similar bills have passed in Maine, California, Oregon and Colorado.
Glick said the financial burden to reduce plastic waste should be shared by people who help contribute to the waste, not just taxpayers and municipalities.
“We have to set the stage for this kind of shared responsibility for materials that go out into the world and need to be in some way recycled and dealt with,” she said. “I don’t think this a radical notion. We have other industry-specific, quote, extended producer responsibility, so this isn’t really the first crack out of the box.”
The bill would only impact companies making more than $1 million in profit annually and would impact companies located both in and outside of New York, such as Amazon and Walmart, if shipping to customers in New York.
Harckham pushed back against claims that the bill is anti-business.
“It’s always, I believe, a false narrative to say that just because we’re doing something that’s good for the environment or for business — they don’t have to be opposite goals,” he said. “In fact, oftentimes, doing the right thing for the environment is much better for business.”
Some business groups have spoken out against the bill. Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, issued a statement arguing that the bill needs to target manufacturers of plastic packaging, not the businesses that use them.
“Restaurants are not producers of packaging. And they do not have the ability to dictate the types of materials made available to them,” Fleischut said in the statement. “On top of that, they face limited choices restricted by state and local sanitary codes requiring food grade packaging. Oregon and Colorado also recognized this fact and have placed responsibility on true manufacturers. Governor Hochul made this distinction clear when she carved out restaurants in her original budget proposal. The legislature must keep the definition of producer to actual manufacturers and follow the lead of fellow states by excluding restaurants from the legislation.”
Harckham said the bill has undergone several versions and the latest version is a true “compromise.”
“We’re drowning in plastic,” he said. “We wanted to learn how other industries work and what accommodations we could do to make this bill more workable for folks who will be impacted on by this. And I want to say, a lot of the companies [and] industries we spoke with are doing some sort of effort on this front.”