NY environmentalists’ next target? Individually wrapped cheese slices face ban under far-reaching bill


It may be a case of lactose intolerance.

Individually wrapped cheese would be largely banned under a far-reaching bill getting pushed by New York environmentalists and politicians to reduce the use of plastics, The Post has learned.

The state bill — called Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act — would require companies with net incomes over $1 million who sell or distribute food or products to reduce plastics and other packaging that ends in landfills or waterways by 50% over the next 12 years.

It would also impose a fee on companies that use plastic packages, with money going toward recycling programs and infrastructure. 

Individually wrapped cheese would be largely banned under a far-reaching bill getting pushed by New York environmentalists and politicians. AP

“This legislation shifts the onus of recycling from municipalities and ensures that producers of products are serving our interests by establishing solutions to sustainable packaging,” Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Peekskill) said in a memo promoting the bill.

The typical New Yorker creates nearly 5 pounds of trash every day, which means the state produces approximately 15 million tons of waste each year, according to Harckham, who introduced the measure along with Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan).

“This waste primarily goes to landfills and incinerators, but can often end up in our water, natural habitats, and municipal spaces,” the memo said.

Four states have implemented similar programs — Maine, Oregon, Colorado and California.

One leading environmentalist backing the bill confirmed that the goal is to eliminate single slices of cheese packaged in non-reusable plastic, as well as other wasteful packaging.

“We have to do something about the plastic crisis,” said Judith Enck, president of the group Beyond Plastics.

The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act would require companies with net incomes over $1 million who sell or distribute food or products to reduce plastics and other packaging that ends in landfills or waterways by 50%. DAVID – stock.adobe.com
The act would impose a fee on companies that use plastic packages, with money going toward recycling programs and infrastructure.  The Toidi – stock.adobe.com

Enck, who previously served as the federal regional administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency under then-President Barack Obama, said mico-plastic wrapping for cheese slices could be replaced with alternatives.

“There was a time in America when we didn’t put a piece of plastic between every slice of cheese. They can substitute plastic with paper,” she said.

She noted it costs New York City $420 million a year to transport and dispose of its trash to landfills and incinerators — and manufacturers should be doing their part.

“These companies have to take responsibility for producing the waste. They’re getting a free ride right now,” Enck said.

Other companies — such as Starbucks — are voluntarily reducing the amount of plastic used.

But the war on plastic cheese wrap and similar packaging is provoking a ferocious backlash from food manufacturers, supermarkets and the toy industry that package food and products in vacuum-sealed wrapping for protection.

“Under this bill, New Yorkers can expect a future where they’re grabbing unwrapped products – from cereals, to cheeses, to hot dogs – from grocery store bins before buying them and carrying them home,” said Nelson Eusebio, a representative with the National Association of Supermarkets.

“There’s no question such a drastic change in shopping habits will reduce the flow of packaging waste to our landfills, but it does so at the risk of ignoring all we’ve gained in food preservation and health benefits with sanitary, air-tight, plastic packaging.”

The law could mean higher grocery bills, he warned.

Four states have implemented similar programs — Maine, Oregon, Colorado and California. AP

“For grocers, this structural change in how we sell goods will mean more of the food we’ve purchased landing in the dumpster rather than consumers’ grocery bags, only adding to the 25% increase we’ve seen in grocery store bills since 2019 – a faster price increase than housing, medical care, and most other categories,” he said. “Worse, so many of the products impacted are the household staples available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), hitting low-income earners the hardest.”

Owen Caine, vice president of the Toy Association, said plastic packaging keeps toys and popular dolls from breaking during transit and carries the appropriate labeling to insure safety.

“If we remove the current packaging tools without an existing, viable replacement, we’ll simply raise costs and put New Yorkers at risk of receiving faulty products that they cannot verify is legitimate and/or tested to ensure it is safe,” Caine said.

Anti-plastic packaging bills have been voted out of the environmental committees in the Senate and Assembly. It will now being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Codes Committee.



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