The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday passed a 5-cent fee on plastic bags at stores in the city.
City Council members voted 5-0 to impose the fee, which will take effect on April 22 — Earth Day — next year.
Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said the new law would cut down on the number of plastic bags that end up in oceans, trees, streets and landfills.
“It is our finding that imposing a bag fee on the customer can create a shift in consumer behavior toward the use of reusable bags and significantly reduce the amount of carryout bags in our city,” Schnirman said.
Under the new law, businesses in the city must charge consumers a nickel for each plastic bag. All proceeds from the fee go back to the businesses to recoup the cost of plastic bags or of providing reusable cloth bags to be given out to customers.
The fee does not apply to plastic bags without handles, such as those used for newspapers, dry cleaning or produce and meats. Businesses must post signs notifying customers of the fee and cannot charge anyone for bringing their own bags.
Businesses that do not follow the ordinance could be fined $100 to $250.
In Long Beach, approximately 11 million plastic bags are used each year, with only about 10 to 15 percent of those recycled, said George Povall, who represents the Point Lookout-based All Our Energy organization for conservation and renewable energy.
On Tuesday, Povall presented the council with a petition of 3,000 signatures in support of the fee.
The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and about 30 businesses so far have pledged to give away or sell reusable bags to customers.
The chamber also will give out a limited number of bags, said Fran Adelson, a chamber member and former city councilwoman.
The Suffolk County Legislature passed a similar 5-cent fee last month, while Patchogue and the towns of Southampton and East Hampton have outright bans on single-use plastic bags.
“Once again Long Beach is leading Nassau County and New York State,” Long Beach City Councilman Anthony Eramo said at a rally in support of the measure outside City Hall Tuesday. “We are on the bay and the ocean and we are on front lines of climate change and we all know that.”
The measure, which enjoyed widespread support among residents and businesses, was years in the making. The City Council had worked with environmental groups and the city’s environmental advisory board to craft the proposal.
Some residents at Tuesday’s meeting asked the council to postpone the vote, arguing that there should be further review after Tuesday’s public hearing as to any additional expenses to the city. City officials said they do not expect any additional costs from the legislation.
Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-East Setauket), who is the chairman of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, said other municipalities in New York State should take note.
“This is model legislation,” he said. “It’s thoughtful and it will be effective.”