Oneida County to sack paper bag fee

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UTICA — When New York’s ban on most single-use plastic retail bags takes effect next March, Oneida County will not charge 5 cents per paper bag, County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. announced Saturday, June 1.

The ban, part of the state budget adopted in early April, came with a provision allowing counties and cities to charge a nickel per paper bag given out by retailers, with three cents going to the state Environmental Protection Fund and two cents going to the locality to pay for distribution of reusable bags.

People using public-assistance benefits would be exempt.

“While I agree that plastic bags have a negative impact on our environment, I will not charge the residents of Oneida County what amounts to yet another state tax to use paper bags,” Picente said.

“Especially not when the state is dictating how we have to spend our portion of the money and they can do with theirs as they please. It’s unfair and shortsighted and I will not be a part of it.”

Picente made the announcement at the Oneida County Public Market at Utica’s Union Station, where reusable bags provided by the market and Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority were given out free to market patrons.

“If we are to truly improve our environment, everyone in Oneida County should have access to free reusable bags,” Picente said.

“That’s why through our partnership with the Oneida County Public Market and other community partners such as the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority we are working on a way to do just that.”

Waste reduction should be the focus, said William Rabbia, executive director of the waste authority.

“We need to reduce single-use plastics. The best alternative is changing our habits and utilizing reusable items such as reusable grocery bags,” Rabbia said.

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