Reduce Plastic

Columbia County To Reduce Single-Use Plastic Checkout Bags

March 20, 2019

Plastic production causes huge problems. Then once it is around, it is around forever and leeches into our water and food system. I support efforts to reduce plastic.

Single-use plastic checkout bags present a number of problems.

  • Derived from fossil fuels
  • A source of litter on land and in waterways
  • Harmful to habitats and wildlife
  • Not biodegradable

Bag bans and fees have led to major reductions in plastic bag use. A study of California legislation found that banning single-use plastic bags combined with a $.10 fee for single-use plastic bags reduces single-use bags by 86 percent.

Targeting Plastic

The ban or fee on plastic focuses on single-use checkout bags. It does not include food packaging or plastic bags for fresh produce.

NY State Ban

I authored a resolution to support the statewide efforts to ban plastic bags at checkout. The resolution passed unanimously at County Government Committee and Finance. NY State passed a resolution, and the new policy will go into effect in March 2019.


It is important that we ensure that consumers and retailers are prepared. In particular, we need to ensure that everyone has easy access to reusable bags.

Best practices include:

  • Conducting educational campaigns before, during, and after the ordinance is enacted.
  • Providing a free reusable bag. I organized a bag collection drive and Columbia County Department of Social Services is also creating and distributing an additional 250 bags.
  • Incorporating a phase-in period of not less than eight months to allow enough time to educate consumers, establish any required administrative systems, and if a ban is implemented, to enable retailers to phase out their existing stock of plastic bags.

Paper Bag Fee

The state law also allows counties to levy a fee on paper bags on checkout. This is an important step and has been proven to reduce waste and increase the use of paper bags. Fees typically range from $.03 to $.10 per bag.

Widespread Examples

Great Barrington, Dutchess County, and Ulster County are among many areas that have banned or instituted a fine on checkout plastic bags.

  • About 25 countries have banned single-use plastic bags and another 25 have instituted fees
  • In the US, bans on the distribution of single-use plastic bags exist in nearly 100 cities, towns, and municipalities across the country—fees exist in almost 30 (as of March 2017).
  • In New York State, at least 14 cities, towns, or villages have enacted a plastic bag ban or fee.

Read the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report

Learn more about my environmental policy.