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Confusion and concerns over plastic bag ban

Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 19, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As the statewide plastic bag ban quickly approaches, many are confused and concerned.

"The words chaos, confusion get tossed around a lot. [The DEC has] been trying to clarify, but they just haven't done so," said Matt Seaholm, Executive Director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance.

On President's Day, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tweaked the law to try to lessen the confusion. The new concern: do those changes create loopholes?

These new regulations clarify what exactly is banned, including things like film plastics. But the law specifies that anything 10 mils in thickness or less is not allowed.

"Still a potential loophole for a very thick film plastic," said Elizabeth Cute, Community Engagement Manager at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

The fear is that stores will just use thicker plastic bags,by passing the law and bringing plastics back into the environment. 10 mils is comparable to a thicker plastic bag.

"I compare those to at Aldi you can purchase the thicker plastic bags, they're a lot more durable than your thicker plastic bag," said Cute.

The DEC says there is no such loophole.

"10 mil thick plastic is an industrial plastic. It's used in things like waterproofing basements, it's not used to create bags," said Sean Mahar, Chief of Staff at the New York State DEC.

Local convenience stores are also concerned.

"Every retailer in New York State is scrambling to get paper bags. Our mainline wholesaler is not able to supply us with paper bags by March 1," said Doug Galli, Vice President and General Manager of Reid Stores, Crosby's.

Stores are also concerned about the cost, storage and durability of paper bags.

"We have received no evidence or heard evidence that there is a shortage of paper bags in the state...if anyone has information we encourage them to contact the department immediately," said Mahar.

Stores say they have no other option than to live with the changes. For more information on the plastic bag ban, the DEC has a page for Frequently Asked Questions.