Celebrate Earth Day: Help ban the bag

BYOBag hashtag graphicDEC Report on plastic bags >

Cuomo's plastic bag task force >

Hudson River trash data 2017 >

Plastic pollution is both a public nuisance and a public health threat. Reducing the use of single-use plastic bags is one of the most meaningful steps that New York can take to reduce pollution from single-use plastic. Unfortunately, last February Governor Cuomo and the state legislature overwhelmingly passed an override of New York City's ambitious plastic bag law.

After passing the override of NYC's bill, the Governor formed a task force to deliver a statewide policy solution which failed to recommend a single solution for the state. State leaders have a responsibility to address plastic pollution this legislative session.

Research by Riverkeeper and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found microplastic particles prevalent in waters across the New York metro area demonstrating the extent of the problem. Each year, nearly 23 billion single-use plastic bags are used across NYS. Many of these lightweight bags end up on our streets and make their way into our local waterways, carried by wind, storm sewers, and shoreline littering. Additional research from Columbia University analyzing shrimp, oysters, clams, and other species found microplastic particles in their digestive tract, as microplastics are often mistaken by wildlife for food across the food web.

Now, promising legislation from Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Steve Englebright aims to tackle the problem, but we need your help to build momentum and win support from the Governor and other legislators. Urge Governor Cuomo, your Assembly member and Senator to pass Senate Bill S7760 and Assembly bill A9953. The legislation would ban polluting single-use plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on paper. The fee will help fund state parks, environmental programs, and free reusable bags for low and fixed income New Yorkers.

Key provisions in the proposed legislation include the following:

  • 80 percent of the fee on paper and new reusable bags would fund the Environmental Protection Fund for education, environmental protection, and distribution of free reusable bags with priority to low/fixed-income communities;

  • 20 percent would help stores defray potential costs with a maximum fee of 25 cents;

  • Provisions are modeled after California’s effective plastic bag law that went into effect in 2016;

  • Produce, meat, and bulk food single-use bags are exempt from this legislation. Additionally, to protect low-income New Yorkers, WIC and SNAP customers are exempt from all fees.

Evidence demonstrates that plastic bag laws help reduce pollution in waterways. Plastic bag policies in the United Kingdom have led to almost a 30 percent reduction in plastic bag pollution found on the floor of the North Sea. Initial evidence from the first year after California's first in the nation ban went into effect, shows a nearly 7 percent reduction in plastic bags found on beaches statewide. New York should follow the lead of California and help demonstrate to the nation that reducing plastic pollution is possible. 

Urge Governor Cuomo and your state Senator and Assembly member to co-sponsor and fight to enact S7760/A9953. 


•    Read the sample letter (below) and edit it as you see fit. Personalized letters have a greater impact!

•    Complete the required fields and click “Send Message.”


  • Your State Representative or Representatives
  • Targeted recipients based on your address


*Required fields


If you take action and have not already registered, you will receive periodic updates and communications from Riverkeeper.


Dear: [Decision Maker],

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]