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City Council Approves 5-Cent Charge For Plastic, Paper Bags

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The City Council approved Thursday a controversial bill that would charge shoppers extra for paper and plastic shopping bags.

CBS2's Sonia Rincon reported the City Council voted 28 to 20 to approve a bill that would require shoppers to be charged a nickel for each bag. Stores would then get to keep the money they collect.

The bill has the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who said it costs $12.5 million a year to transport 91,000 tons of paper and plastic bags to landfills out of state.

Mark-Viverito said she will have to change her habits and remember to bring her own bags.

"Right now, I don't, and I will have the motivation to use reusable bags," she said.

Bill sponsor Brad Lander told WCBS 880's Rich Lamb that the law will work by irritating New Yorkers into remembering to bring reusable bags.

"It's no secret the bill has many opponents and we'll hear from them could it not? It works by irritating people into remembering to bring reusable bags," Lander said.

De Blasio said he will sign the bill into law.

Beginning this fall, stores will have to charge customers a minimum of 5 cents per plastic or paper bag. The stores get to keep the money and can charge even more if they want to.

The legislation is also a push to encourage people to bring their own bags or use reusable options.

But those who operate stores say implementing the charge may not be easy.

"Many customers have large orders, as you're bagging groceries, double bagging groceries, at some point the cashier is going to have to count each bag," Bob Capano, who operates a Gristedes Supermarket on the Upper East Side, told CBS2's Janelle Burrell.

Capano said the law would be taxing not only on his workers' productivity, but his customers as well.

"This is literally nickel and diming customers," he said. "It adds up, especially for customers trying to make ends meet."

Others fighting the bill say it unfairly targets those who can't afford it.

"It's going to hurt the poor. It's going to hurt senior citizens. It's going to hurt people who do not have cars," City Council member James Vacca, D-Bronx, said. "And these are flimsy bags to begin with, when you go shopping you have to double-bag everything."

The non-profit Reclaim New York released a statement saying, "Let's stop pretending this has anything to do with protecting the environment. It's just another example of New York literally nickel and diming the poorest New Yorkers to raise more revenue."

"The City Council must not be getting enough oxygen if they think this issue is more important than helping the millions of New Yorkers suffocating due to our high taxes and cost of living," the statement said.

The proposal is getting mixed reactions from New Yorkers.

"I think it's great they need to get rid of all the plastic," said shopper Gladys Van Putten. "It's hurting the environment fish and sea."

"I think environmental, it's the right thing to do. We see plastic flying around, we don't see as much recycling as we would like to," said Upper East Side resident Rich Rennert.

"The amount of time that you buy stuff and every time you have to pay five cents, that's gonna be a lot of money by the end of the year," said Canarsie resident Annette Daley.

"Economy is not great right now and unless people can afford to buy a canvas shopping bag, they're gonna kinda be stuck," said shopper Lynne Smals.

The bill exempts purchases made with food stamps, take-out, and medications at pharmacies.

If the bill has the desired result, grocery stories will save and earn extra money. They city's asking them to give back by doing free giveaways of reusable bags, and if they don't comply with charging customers 5 cents, they'd get hit with $250 fines the first time, $500 after that.

The law would take effect in October, but enforcement wouldn't begin until next April.

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