SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Despite the New York State plastic bag ban going into effect on March 1, some local stores are still using plastic to serve their customers. Companies will not be fined or penalized for using single-use plastic bags until April 1, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced at a hearing last Friday.
The Valero Gas Station Mini Mart on Erie Boulevard just down the hill from SU’s campus is on one of those stores taking its time before completely removing plastic bags. A stack of brown paper bags lays on the counter next to the cash register, while a cluster plastic bags hangs under the table. Packing items in a handle-less paper bag has been more inconvenient for customers than anybody, employees said.
“It’s not us, it’s the customers. It’s not us,” said Sam Mann, store manager. “For us it’s handy, easy to grab and put stuff in it. It’s customers who has more problems. For me, it’s not a problem.”
Mann said he found out about the new law in the newspaper. Some customers ask for a plastic bag still, he said. While large grocery stores in the area have abandoned plastic bags completely, Mann said there is no rush to do so after the DEC’s announcement last week. Some shoppers are now used to seeing paper bags at the check out line in department stores.
“It’s kind of a pain when you go to Wegman’s and they give you those giant paper ones because you can’t really carry them as well,” Matt Parotes, a Valero customer said. “But I guess it’s good for the environment so I don’t really care that much.”
As the change became law on the first of the month, the DEC says retailers will be given a warning if they don’t make the change now. The fines only begin in April:
- First offense: $250
- Next offense: $500
“The idea isn’t to run out on day one and start smacking people with fees,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Governor Cuomo. “It’s an education effort. We’re trying to help people transition and do it responsibly.”
At Valero, employees are confused on what actually is apart of the ban. Mann said the store will continue using plastic garbage bags, not knowing if that is allowed. Despite still having the option to give single-use plastic bags to customers, the gas station mart is making an effort to completely switch to brown paper bags.
“The customers who are aware of it. They got no problem,” Mann said. “But the other customers who aren’t aware of it. It’s just a back and forth and then an argument, you got to explain to them.”
To help implement the change, New York State purchased more than a quarter million reusable bags to give to food pantries and shelters.