Come July 2019, plastic bags will be banned in Ulster County, New York! The county lawmakers passed the BYOBag Act, which prohibits the use of plastic bags at grocery stores and department stores. The measure will help reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste produced in the area, which is great news especially since, according to the environmental organization Riverkeeper, an estimated 20 billion single-use plastic bags are used in New York State every year!

The new anti-plastic measure received overwhelming support from the county citizens at hearings this summer and fall, Spectrum News reports. 15 country legislators supported the measure, while seven did not, and the act was signed into law at a ceremony in the Ulster County Executive’s office on October 16th.

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Before the law comes into effect, officials want to roll out an education campaign focused on the negative effects of plastic on the environment as well as provide all Ulster County citizens with reusable bags. Afterward, consumers will have the option to pay $0.05 for a recycled paper bag at the checkout or bring their own reusable bag, which, of course, is the preferable and encouraged scenario.

“This law is the gold standard for reducing plastic pollution from reducing single-use plastic bags, and encouraging the use of reusable bags,” said Jeremy Cherson, the Legislative Advocacy Manager for Riverkeeper.

Plastic bag bans have already proven incredibly successful in areas where they have been implemented. In the Netherlands, for example, the use of bags went down 71 percent following the introduction of a ban. Considering we dump 8.8 million tons of plastic into the oceans every year, this is a wonderful step in the right direction. Less plastic bags in circulation means less plastics bags being thrown away and getting into the environment, especially the ocean where they become traps for marine animals, look dangerously similar to jellyfish, and finally break down into harmful microplastics.

To learn how to minimize your own plastic footprint, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

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