Last year, the City Council approved a bill that would add a five-cent charge to use a plastic bag when shopping in local stores.
Because of the state government, it was postponed, and now there is a last-minute attempt to preempt the bill, with the concern that it will negatively impact low-income New Yorkers.
Last week, I received an email about this issue, imploring me to take a closer look at the social justice impacts. As you know, I am very concerned about institutional racism and oppression, so of course I was interested.
However, I did take pause, as I had never heard of the sender. I assumed it was a symptom of my over-subscribed inbox that receives so many, “You Won't Believe What’s About To Happen!” emails.
Spam, in other words. I ignored it.
But then I began to receive personal responses to it, and decided to write back.
The person sending the email was from a company I had never heard of, and they were begging me to contact an organization that, while powerful, has been mostly in the news of late for receiving buyouts from environmental bad actors to oppose environmental initiatives.
Sure enough, the email’s listed company was a well-known lobbying group. All I needed to do was buzz over to New York City lobbying disclosures website to find an easy answer.
This lobbying firm was paid by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, who works to protect the interests of plastics manufacturers.
A Politico article confirmed that the “grassroots organization” the lobbyist was attempting to connect me to was receiving payments from this same group since 2014.
I had originally thought I would give the “grassroots organization” a call to hear them out. But after a bit of light research, I saw their payout and decided against it.
The reality is, I've long been concerned with bad-acting industry impacts on low-income communities, and I became interested in this because of the myriad of health impacts on this very neighborhood.
Greenpoint, a longtime home of plastic bag manufacturing, as well as former vinyl factories, has a long list of cancers, autoimmune disorders and other problems that can be traced to the fumes and chemicals used in plastic manufacturing.
I remember, just a few years ago, the entire neighborhood would fill with an unreal stench that I learned comes from a plastics manufacturer on Kent Avenue.
It’s not expensive nor difficult to carry a reusable bag. If the concern is truly that it will negatively impact low-income New Yorkers, why are plastic manufacturers paying for it? I think the answer is the latter.
Besides, the five cents will go to the local store owner each time, which will support small businesses each time one forgets.
I think the bag charge is a good idea. Outside of scooping up dog poop, plastic bags serve us very little purpose.
I have no patience to hear out lobbyists or their paid players.
I asked the lobbyist why he wrote to me. He said he was aware of my column in the Greenpoint Star.
In other words, he wanted me to write a “grassroots” article that was wholly influenced by paid performers for plastics manufacturers.
No. I want to make clear, right here in this space, that I will never blast out a phony perspective.
I am also urging you to be suspicious – it turns out that lobbyists have succeeded in buying out some grassroots organizations to go against their own interests.
I will not be one of those people.