New York Lawmakers Attempt at Sustainability Legislation Misses the Mark

By Mike Durant and John Hewitt | June 4, 2024

New York State, historically a beacon of opportunity and innovation, is now finding its economic lifeblood choked by high taxes and onerous government regulations. These fiscal and bureaucratic burdens from Albany are not merely abstract policy issues; they have real, tangible effects on businesses and families, leading to a concerning exodus of residents and enterprises seeking friendlier environments.

According to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, New York lost more than 100,000 residents between July 2022 and July 2023. That’s the largest decrease of any state. At least 158 companies managing almost a trillion dollars in assets have also left New York, according to a recent report by Bloomberg.

Yet, instead of the blinking red light that these numbers would present to most policymakers, some lawmakers in Albany are looking to double down and make things even worse.

Lawmakers are currently considering a new legislation, the mis-named “Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act”, that would hurt New York consumers, limit access to certain foods and ban technology that supports recycling. While the ostensible goal of the legislation is admirable and one that we all share, which is to create a more sustainable future for our state’s communities, the reality is that it will have unintended consequences that will harm consumers.

The numbers speak for themselves. New York State residents already currently face the highest tax burden in the country, among all 50 states, across property taxes, individual income taxes, and sales and excise taxes. Now under this new legislations New York families will face even more increased costs at a time when inflation is already hurting them in virtually every financial aspect of their lives. While the legislation has been amended to reduce the potential financial impact on consumers allegedly, it will still increase New York households’ costs by $2,300 over the next five years.

With sustained, high inflation rates across all household expenditures, it is irresponsible to introduce legislation that could only make grocery bills more expensive – especially for our low- and middle-income families.

In addition to higher prices, New York families will quickly face fewer choices at the grocery store if this legislation becomes law. Some of the most well-known manufacturers with facilities in the Empire State could be forced to reduce their supply to accommodate new packaging requirements. Even hardworking New York farmers will be saddled with higher fees, which will inevitably be passed down to consumers. This added financial burden will also disproportionately impact families reliant on SNAP, as the legislation will result in lost access to food sold in flexible or convenience packaging, which is common for SNAP products.

No one disagrees that reducing waste is essential to protecting our environment. The packaging that our food, beverages, and household products come in is a central part of the sustainability discussion, but the burden of responsibility in increasing recyclability remains a constant source of debate. Smart public policy and government, industry, and consumers all working together is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Another crucial piece of the puzzle is advanced recycling. This technology, that goes beyond traditional recycling, makes it possible to recycle hard-to-recycle-plastic. Yet, the proposed legislation seeks to ban advanced recycling, which would hinder the ability of companies to invest in packaging innovation to build a more circular system and meet aggressive recycling targets.

As job creators leave New York, the state’s regulations are often cited as some of the most complex and burdensome in the country. The regulatory landscape in New York is a maze that many job creators find nearly impossible to navigate, driving them to states with more business-friendly climates.

Creating a more sustainable future is imperative, but innovation takes time. New York should not be moving backward when it comes to sustainability policy, and certainly not at the expense of consumers and jobs. While we all support efforts to better protect our environment, placing the burden squarely on our farmers, manufacturers, and families already struggling with high inflation will have a detrimental impact, resulting in high costs and fewer choices for New York families.

New York stands at a crossroads. It can continue on its current path, risking further economic decline, or it can embrace smart reforms and renewal that protect both families and our environment.

Mike Durant, President & CEO, Food Industry Alliance of New York and John Hewitt, Vice President of Packaging and Sustainability and Head of State Affairs, Consumer Brands Association.


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