Nassau lawmakers eye plastic bag fee

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Shoppers in Nassau County may soon have to start forking over 5 cents for plastic bags like their Suffolk County neighbors.

Nassau lawmakers are considering a bag-fee proposal with the goal of dramatically curbing the use of plastic bags -- which often wind up in bays and threaten fish, birds and other wildlife.

MORE: Nassau lawmakers announce bag-fee bill

The proposed fee in Nassau mirrors the current law in Suffolk: 5 cents would be charged for each plastic bag at grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and retail outlets. Store owners would have to pay a penalty if they fail to collect the fee. Eateries and restaurants would be exempt.

Legislator Debra Mule (D-Freeport) notes that because of the fee in Suffolk, plastic bag usage is down almost 80 percent there.

"We can't solve the entire pollution problem, but we can take important steps to decrease the use of disposable bags here in Nassau," says Mule.

To some Nassau shoppers who spoke with News 12, the proposed bag fee sounds like a nuisance.

But environmentalists say it's an important effort.

"The bottom line is we need to change public behavior and get the public to bring their own bags to the store so that we can stop using plastic bags," says Adrienne Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently introduced a bill banning plastic bags statewide, but Nassau lawmakers say that might make stores turn to paper bags. They say the production of paper bags is also harmful to the environment.

If the bill passes, the Nassau plastic bag fee would take effect Jan. 31, 2019.

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