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Nassau considers plastic bag fee

Paper or Plastic? It's a common question at stores, but a new proposal in Nassau County would have checkout workers asking if you brought your own bag.

Nassau County Legislator Debra Mule has proposed legislation that would require many stores to charge 5 cents per disposable bag.

"The truth is that change is often challenging and this will require an adjustment in thinking," Mule said at a Monday press conference.

Some shoppers think it's a great idea. Kaite Emmert left a Mineola grocery store with bags full of food Monday.

"Honestly, I did not need all these bags, but I would definitely rather bring my own reusable bags," Emmert.

She thinks the 5 cent fee would either remind or nudge people to bring their own reusable bags when they shop.

"I think they would get angry at first, but I really feel like it would be much better for the environment," she said.

Billions of plastic bags are used in New York State every year. In addition to filling landfills, they get stuck in trees and kill wildlife.

Ray Parada, the manager at Bagelman Bagels in Mineola, has seen firsthand customer reluctance to shop with reusable bags.

"The owner five years ago even proposed to give it for free. They didn't like the idea," Parada said.

This legislation has some exemptions that include grocery produce and meat bags, newspaper bags and dry cleaning bags.

The reusable bag fee is already law in Suffolk County. Before the Suffolk bill went into effect, 5 percent of the public was bringing reusable bags Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment said. Now about 70 percent of shoppers bring reusable bags to stores.

Last month Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed banning all plastic bags. But some Nassau County lawmakers said paper would still be used. Plus, they aren't confident the statewide bill will pass.

In Nassau County, this law would allow stores to pocket the bag fee, so it's not considered a tax.

The disposable fee legislation still needs to be voted on and the earliest it could go into effect would be 2019. Stores that violate it would be fined.