Come January, many New York retailers will be required by law to recycle plastic shopping bags.
Starting next month, many New York retailers will be required to recycle plastic shopping bags under a bill Gov. David Paterson signed into law on Saturday.
Effective Jan. 1, large grocers and other retailers that offer plastic bags to their customers will be required to put out bins where shoppers can deposit them and recycle the returned bags. It's similar to a recently enacted California law, as well as local ordinances adopted in municipalities nationwide, including New York City.
The debate over the use of the thin, petroleum-based plastic bags has intensified in recent years because of ever-increasing public awareness about environmental issues. It's spurred many retailers to offers reusable bags and some to even stop using the plastic ones altogether.
Judith Enck, Paterson's deputy secretary for the environment, said statistics show that consumers throw away roughly 100 million of the bags nationally every year.
"The bill signed by Gov. Paterson will make it easier for New Yorkers to recycle used plastic bags and encourage greater use of reusable bags," Enck said.
New York's law -- sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Sen. Carl Marcellino -- applies to stores with more than 10,000-square-feet of retail space or those that are part of a chain with more than five stores, each with more than 5,000-square-feet of retail space.
With the new state law, local governments are pre-empted from adopting their own shopping-bag recycling laws.
However, Paterson said he expects lawmakers to amend the state law to allow New York City to keep its retail plastic recycling program -- which includes the film plastic that many products are wrapped in -- and require other retailers in the state to recycle film plastic as well.