Plastic bags be gone

Charlie Komanoff sent this visual trip down memory lane, back to 2017 when Erik Torkells was obsessed with plastic bags being caught in branches, crowd-funded a grabber thanks to you all and found a willing partner in Charlie. Over several days they liberated dozens of bags — or trees, depending on how you look at it.

Why do I mention this now, you ask? To mark the official start of the state’s plastic bag ban. Back then the state legislature was busy postponing the plan to charge for bags, but the state finally got with the program and just banned them outright.

The ban went into effect on March 1 but was not enforced per an agreement between the parties in a lawsuit brought by — who else — the makers of plastic bags, Poly-Pak Industries (along with the Bodega and Small Business Association). New York State Supreme Court issued a decision in August upholding the law, and the state can now enforce the regs as of yesterday.

New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually for about 12 minutes each and the state estimates that approximately 85 percent of them end up in landfills, waterways or streets — or trees.

This is the official word from the state Department of Environmental Conservation: As of October 19, 2020, any “person required to collect tax” must not distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt* bags as provided for in the Bag Waste Reduction Law. *The thin green plastic ones in the produce department at Whole Foods, for example, are exempt.



  1. Seems like a great step in the right direction.

  2. What’s with not allowing people against the ban to comment?

    You deny that the cost of plastic bags will be a heavy burden on fixed income people including the elderly who don’t qualify for the exemption from the nickel fee?

    If someone like this pays say $5 a month on garbage bags that’s $60 a year which could be spent on medications, toiletries, and health products.

    This law is also classist because in theory someone who orders in every meal and grocery order doesn’t have to pay a nickel in bag fees despite using wayyy more plastic bags than a little old lady who buys 2-3 bags of groceries a week.

    • Yes, if you are talking to me, I absolutely deny that the ban is a heavy burden on those with a fixed income. Everyone can bring their own bags. And it is classist to assume that only the rich can afford to care about the environment. The little old lady on a fixed income might be just as diligent and caring about unnecessary waste.

      • The rich “care about the environment” by ordering takeout 3-7 times a week & having all their groceries delivered in plastic bags & cardboard boxes? What a laughable statement. They sure can afford to hurt the environment by ordering takeout, grocery delivery, and Amazon all the time.

        You missed my point which comes from me knowing about the law & you having no clue about it for you to accuse of me being classist which I am not so let me break it down like all the rich people around here break down their wasteful cardboard delivery boxes:

        If a little old lady on a fixed income buys 4 bags of groceries without using her own bags, she is charged 20 cents. If a 27 year old hedge fund manager orders takeout for dinner 4 times a week he is charged nothing for the 4 plastic bags (or the plastic utensils & paper napkins) used to deliver his food. Therefore the law is unfair as well as classist. People who mostly grocery shop & can’t afford to order alot of takeout or groceries in one shot are penalized while people who can afford to have dinner delivered half the week or more or eight bags of groceries delivered are not. That’s classist. So is a janitor being charged 20 cents for 4 plastic bags while a doctor is charged nothing for food or grocery.

        You deny the fee is a heavy burden on a fixed income person? Because you live on a fixed income? Again $5 a month for plastic bags is $60 a year which could be used towards a prescription,
        a flu shot, health products, or just your favorite cookies.

        What part of recyclable plastic grocery bags are used to throw out garbage do you not understand? The bag fee is a sales tax & the cost of plastic bags for garbage is an additional sales tax of sorts.

  3. Need to ask, what are we to do with all the reusable bags from Target and Fresh Direct. I have about 50 of them. Neither will take back because of covid. So do I just too them into the trash. Is that a good for the environment . I don’t think so. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

    • Exhibit A, Pam. T won’t pay a penny for all these bags. Unfair.

      Spare me people can use their own bags. You do know we all ultimately have to dispose of most of our garbage into plastic bags, so what the hell is the difference between using plastic grocery bags & Hefty/Glad bags?

      Then let’s charge people a nickel for every restaurant meal which includes paper napkins. A nickel per napkin.

      How ’bout a nickel for every takeout bag?

      Oh wait, I forgot, dining out and ordering in isn’t wasteful PSSSHHHHH.

    • I recently started collecting the fresh direct bags from my neighbors as it turns out food pantries and animal care and control can use them. I also posted them on freecycle and craigslist and got a lot of people that want them. I’d be happy to try and collect bags from anyone that has them, but i live in midtown. To the person that has 50, if you give me your contact info, I can have one of the acc volunteers potentially pick up from you.

    • if anyone would like to donate their fresh direct bags to a charity, please email me at