Plastic Bag Waste Becoming a Growing Concern in New York State

Mar 27, 2017

"Whether you drop it off or your hauler picks it up curbside, participating in OCRRA's recycling program makes it easy to save the world a little each day," as it spells in the agency's website, which outlines efforts to contribute to saving plastic that is made easily reachable accessible to citizens of the Onondaga community here:
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

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.