A plastic bag recycling law set to take effect in New York City next month may be relegated to the trash pile.
Proponents of the legislation, which was introduced and approved by the City Council, say it will be gutted by another recycling bill that was approved by Albany lawmakers earlier this week, much to the surprise of council members.
The speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, is calling on Governor Paterson to veto the state bill, arguing that it would cripple the city's ability to implement its own bag recycling program, which she says will be more effective and comprehensive than that of the state.
The Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council also issued statements yesterday calling on Mr. Paterson to veto it. The state bill appears to restrict the city from implementing any future legislation regarding plastic bag recycling.
Although the dueling approaches to plastic bag recycling look similar, they contain key differences that council members say will exempt many city stores from the recycling requirements.
The council's law requires stores of 5,000 square feet or larger and all chain stores, including franchises, to recycle plastic bags, while the state law would apply to stores 10,000 square feet or larger and chain stores run by a central manager or owner.
The council's law also would require stores to recycle plastic wrapping on packages, dry cleaning bags, and plastic newspaper bags, while the state bill would require the recycling of plastic grocery bags only.
"Albany is not just recycling our ideas, but also throwing our authority into the landfill," a council member of Queens who introduced the plastic bag recycling bill in the council, Peter Vallone Jr., said in a statement.
The council was blindsided by the state legislation, which was introduced late last week in the Assembly and Senate. The sponsor of the Senate bill, Senator Carl Marcellino, disputed the idea that the legislation was slipped past the city's lawmakers, saying both bills had been on a list of active legislation for five months.
A spokesman for Mr. Paterson, Errol Cockfield, said the state bill hadn't reached the governor's desk yet. He declined to comment any further.
Mr. Marcellino, who represents parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, said the state needs a single policy when it comes to plastic bag recycling and not a patchwork of local laws that require business owners to follow different rules. The council could have expressed its opinion about the bill before it was approved, he said, but never did.
"Someone dropped the ball," he said. "Someone was asleep at the switch."