Great Lakes states have struggled with plastic pollution for decades. Now, New York state is making a bold move when it comes to pollution caused by single-use plastic bags.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week an amendment to the state's current policy regarding single-use bags. The new rule would ban single-use plastic bags starting January 1, 2019.
"The blight of plastic bags takes a devastating toll on our streets, our water and our natural resources, and we need to take action to protect our environment," Cuomo said in a written statement. "As the old proverb goes: 'We did not inherit the earth, we are merely borrowing it from our children,' and with this action we are helping to leave a stronger, cleaner and greener New York for all."
There are a few exceptions to the prohibition, they include bags provided by restaurants, bars or similar businesses; bags used for wrapping uncooked meat or fish, trash bags or food storage bags.
Groups like the Alliance for the Great Lakes work year-round to educate and warn against the use of disposable plastics like single-use bags. In recent years volunteers with the Alliance collected more than 15,000 single-use plastic bags across the Great Lakes Basin.
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper works to clear plastics and other debris from the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario watershed areas.
Jill Spisiak Jedlicka, executive director for the group, says they see the impact of plastics when conducting clean up events across western New York.
“We put it in the category of single-use plastics, whether it’s a single-use plastic bag or a single-use plastic bottle or single-use plastic straws, we see the impact first-hand," she said.