April 1 (UPI) -- A new budget from New York lawmakers includes a statewide law against single-use plastic bags that are often used by grocery stores and retail businesses -- becoming just the second state in the nation to implement such a ban.
The provision was included in a $175 billion state budget passed by lawmakers Monday.
New York joins California as the only states to ban the plastic bags. Hawaii essentially has a similar ban, since all of its counties passed their own plastic bag bans. New York's ban will take effect next March.
"Plastic bag ban, which I am very excited about, this is long overdue," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday in a news conference about the budget. "You drive through urban areas in this state and you see plastic bags hanging from trees like some bizarre Christmas ornaments.
"You see in waterways all across this state, plastic bags. I've been fishing 40 miles out in the ocean and you see a parade of these plastic bags just floating by. There was no need, we've been trying to get this done, we've gotten it done."
The plan, though, still allows the use of paper bags for a fee, and environmentalists worry it will drive down the popularity of reusable bags. The Citizens Budget Commission said New York City alone uses 71,000 tons of plastic bags annually.
"Single-use plastics are a first-class and growing environmental nuisance in and of themselves," Eric Goldstein, senior attorney and New York City environment director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg. "This issue is also symbolic of local efforts that can be undertaken to combat larger problems."
The American Chemistry Council, which has supported the plastics industry, has fought bans on plastic in favor of recycling before, and recently asked Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to veto legislation that would ban polystyrene foam products in his state.