You Better Start Bringing Your Own Grocery Bags in New York

By Mike Pomranz |

Don't expect to see as many of these. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

New York City is home to over eight million people, and later this year you’ll probably see the most stubborn among them trying to carry all their groceries home in their bare hands.

This afternoon, by a vote of 28 – 20, the New York City Council passed a regulation that will impose a minimum fee of five cents for bags, plastic or paper, used by shoppers at almost all retail, convenience and grocery stores. The new law does include some exceptions, including places like liquor stores and restaurants, as well as certain situations like people buying medicine or shopping with food stamps. It’s also worth noting that the 5 cent fee (or higher if the store chooses) goes directly to the store, so it’s not a tax. Assuming Mayor Bill de Blasio approves the measure, and he has suggested that he will, the new rule will take effect in October.


If you find laws like this annoying, proponents of the legislation say that’s exactly the point. “The fee is irritating, which is precisely why it works,” Councilman Brad Lander, who was one of the law’s main sponsors, told the New York Times. “We don’t want to pay it so we’ll bring bags instead. So the fact that it’s irritating irritates a lot of people.” As if New Yorkers aren’t already on edge enough.

Lander also suggested bringing your own bag isn’t as annoying as we’d like to think. “It’s not that hard to bring a reusable bag,” the councilman was quoted as saying. “We bring keys when we leave the house. We bring a MetroCard to ride the subway.” While that is true for New Yorkers, it also doubles as the list of things we’re most likely to forget.

Though the new regulation is hoping to cut down on the approximately 10 billion single use plastic bags the New York Sanitation Department says it collects each year, there could be other repercussions as well. It seems like a potential boon for the man-purse business. Or maybe it will spawn a cottage industry of guys selling bags out front of stores for 4 cents. New Yorkers are nothing if not industrious.