Suffolk County shoppers will be charged extra for paper and plastic bags

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island —Shoppers in Suffolk County will be charged an extra five cents for plastic and other carryout bags starting January 2018.

A new law, set to take effect on the first day of the new year, will require grocery and retail stores to charge customers five cents for each carryout bag the establishment provides.

“The purpose of this local law is to encourage consumers in Suffolk County to use their own reusable bags,” the law says.

The legislation is part of a larger effort to cut back on the use of paper and plastic bags. Critics say plastic bags in particular wreak havoc on the environment since they are not biodegradable.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year and they often end up contaminating soil, oceans, and waterways. It is estimated that plastic bags account for over 10% of debris that washes up on the county’s coastlines. Birds and sea life can become also entangled or die from accidentally ingesting the material.

An outright ban on plastic bags had been previously proposed by the county.

“If this approach fails to reduce the use of plastic bags by at least 75% in three (3) years, the idea of an outright ban can be revisited at a later date,” the law states.

Bags without handles used to carry produce, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, dry goods or other non-prepackaged food items, provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs and garment bags are exempt from the fee.