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Suffolk County Shoppers To Be Charged For Single-Use Bags

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Attention shoppers! You'll soon be charged for carry-out bags in Suffolk County starting January 1st.

Single-use bags will cost five cents each.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, it may prompt shoppers to think twice before using them.

"Listen, bring your own bag -- avoid the fee," Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer said. "Help keep this earth alive. This is too important. We have tried to do this for years."

The county is about to become the first in New York State with a "bring your own bag" law. It passed last year, but it doesn't take effect until January 1st.

Many merchants say they were caught off guard.

"They heard about it," Steve Lense from Imperial Bag & Paper said. "They were wishing it would go away."

Now, they're dreading customer complaints from folks like the Hutters of Ronkonkoma, for whom the nickels add up.

"I think it's ridiculous," Mr. Hutter said. "We pay a lot for groceries, we pay a lot for taxes and now an additional expense of five cents a bag?"

Many people who spoke to CBS2 welcome the chance to get bag litter off roadways and out of waterways where they harm wildlife and clog drainage.

The bags gum up recycling machines and don't break down in landfills.

"We can take this one step and this one action to make a difference," Adrienne Esposito from Citizen's Campaign for the Environment said.

Higher fees on single-use bags all but eliminated used in some countries. Others have banned plastic bags altogether.

Suffolk's new law was offered up as a gentle reminder.

Merchants will have to charged five cents for all bags, even paper shopping bags. It's not a tax, since merchants will keep the fee until "someone figures out a way to take it back from us," according to one man.

Only five percent of Suffolk residents now bring their own reusable bag. A follow-up survey next year will measure if nickel and diming at the register has changed habits.

New York City's proposal for a five cent bag fee earlier this year was sidelined by Governor Cuomo, who called for a task force to come up with a uniform solution to the bigger issue.

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