January 9, 2008 / 9:58 PM / 12 years ago

NYC council votes to mandate plastic bag recycling

A shopper looks at apples at a farmers market in New York March 11, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a bid to curb the environmental impact of nearly 1 billion plastic bags used by New York City consumers annually, the city’s council passed a bill on Wednesday requiring large stores to set up recycling programs.

The bill, which will likely be approved by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also requires stores that occupy at least 5,000 square feet to make recycled bags available and to use bags printed with a pro-recycling message.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said costs to businesses would be “insignificant” in part because stores can sell bags to recycling businesses, which pay as much as $100 per ton of plastic bags, and turn them into new products like plastic furniture.

Environmentalists have targeted plastic bags as a scourge that take years to biodegrade and contaminate soil and water.

In March, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags from large supermarkets and the state of California enacted a law in July that requires large stores to take back plastic bags and encourage their reuse.

Reporting by Edith Honan, editing by Michelle Nichols and Eric Beech

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