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Plastic Bag Waste Becoming a Growing Concern in New York State

Scott Willis

Twenty-three billion. That’s the number of plastic bags New Yorkers use every year. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently launched a task force to address the issue. Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency Executive Director Dereth Glance says plastic bags never really break down and decompose. If they’re not recycled properly, Glance says they can cause harm to the environment.

“Everything that becomes litter, that’s on the ground, it’s going to go into the water. Plastic never goes away, it photo degrades; that means the sun breaks it up into smaller pieces, and then it gets eaten by fish, and it has no nutrients.”

She also reminds people not to put plastic bags in the blue bin.

“They gum up the works; they make it really hard to recycle all the stuff that we should be recycling. Never, ever, ever put a plastic bag in a blue bin. Whenever you go to your Wegmans or Price Chopper, you’ve got a bin there that you might see – sometimes there might be some garbage in it – but mostly, that’s supposed to be for plastic bags, and those are really the best places for us to take those in our community right now.”

New York State’s Food Industry Alliance President Michael Rosen says it’s important to develop a uniform state policy for retailers because he doesn’t think bag policies should determine where people ultimately shop.

“And that certainly creates winners and losers in the retail community, because you can be on one side of the street where bags are banned and as a competitor across the street or in the next block who can issue them.”

An estimated 100 billion plastic bags end up in the garbage every year in America and less than 1% get recycled. According to OCRRA, plastic bags make up about 8% of the total waste stream in the county. That’s more than 40 million pounds of plastic bags being thrown away.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at