Feb. 23, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
All Queens Library locations will stop handing out free plastic bags to its customers as part of an environmentally-friendly initiative announced today.
The library system is completely halting production and distribution of all plastic bags, according to spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon. All 65 library locations through the borough will take the free plastic bags out of circulation on June 30.
“We appreciate that plastic bags are convenient, but the consequences of convenience are too great,” said Dennis M. Walcott, CEO and President of the Queens Library, in a statement. “Plastic bags harm the health of wildlife, humans and marine life, litter our streets, sidewalks, trees, parks, yards and beaches and are costly to produce.”
The Queens Library began producing and distributing the orange and white bags over 20 years ago as a convenience for customers and to help the library build its public profile. The library system currently gives away 1 million plastic bags a year, totaling to 24 tons of plastic.
Environmental groups, like the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter and the Environmental Justice Alliance (EJA), championed the library’s new initiative.
Eddie Bautista, executive director of the EJA, said the library took “meaningful action to safeguard our climate”, in contrast to recent federal government actions that appear to roll back environmentally-friendly policies.
“We need more organizations like the Library and leaders like Dennis Walcott at the local level to continue to counteract what’s happening in Washington,” Bautista said in a statement.
In addition, Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who also heads the council’s environmental protection committee, said the library is demonstrating environmental leadership in no longer producing plastic bags.
“Ending their use will help our city reach our goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050 and improve our environmental health,” Constantinides said.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chair of the council’s subcommittee on libraries, said he hopes other organizations will follow suit.
“Plastic bags are highly detrimental to the environment,” Van Bramer said. “I am really proud of Queens Library for taking this step and leading the way on this issue which will have a major impact in New York City.”
The Queens Library spokesperson said the bags each cost $10.2 cents to make, for a total of about $100,000 each year. With the halt in production, the library said they will use the financial savings toward strengthening their collections, programs, and services, starting with increasing its electronic book collection.