Can you live without using a plastic bag for a week…or longer? Proponents of a charge on single-use plastic and paper bags are challenging New Yorkers to do just that.

Surfrider NYC and a coalition of environmental and neighborhood groups have declared September 15 – 21 #BYOBag Week. The groups are encouraging New Yorkers to bring their own reusable bags to the store.

Building To A Bag Law

#BYOBag Week is designed to build support for a proposed surcharge on single-use bags. In late March, Council Members Margaret Chin and Brad Lander introduced legislation designed to “dramatically reduce single-use plastic and paper bags in New York City by forcing us to think twice about whether we really need a bag and encourage reusable bag use.”

Those second thoughts would be triggered by a 10-cent charge on every non-reusable bag provided by grocery and retail stores. Stores would get to keep the 10 cents.

Reducing Waste Or Causing E. Coli?

The bill, which aims to reduce plastic bag use in New York City by 90 percent, is currently being reviewed by the Council’s Sanitation Committee. Supporters take pains to say it’s not a tax. Rather, they point to the hefty costs associated with plastic bag use. According to their numbers, New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic bags annually; getting those bags to landfills costs $10 million per year.

Despite a provision that would exempt WIC and SNAP recipients from paying the charge, some opponents of the bill fear it will hurt low-income families. A lobbyist for the plastic bag industry raised concerns that reliance on reusable bags will lead to an outbreak of diseases like E. coli, a claim that Council Member Lander was quick to refute.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when other cities and states are doubling-down on single-use bags – including California, which recently banned free plastic bags.

How To Bag It

To help New Yorkers ditch single-use bags, Surfrider has arranged a number of events for #BYOBag Week, including reusable bag giveaways in Brooklyn and a student-focused rally on Tuesday, September 16th. These events lead up to the People’s Climate March, a major environmental action to be held in New York City on Sunday September 21st.

While participating in #BYOBag Week can be as simple as bringing a reusable bag to your corner bodega, Surfrider is encouraging participants to go online to register their support for the legislation.