Skip To Content

Why Do Orthodox Jews Oppose The Plastic Bag Fee?

A state law blocking New York City’s effort to charge a nickel apiece for plastic bags at grocery stores is a victory for Brooklyn’s powerful Orthodox community — where large families might mean an outsized burden.

The law, signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday night, bars the city from enforcing its own law, which would have gone into effect in just a few days.

The city law had few friends in Albany. But it was the Simcha Felder, who represents the Orthodox neighborhood of Boro Park in the State Senate, who led the charge against it.

“The sentiment was really, really strong on the part of the average person,” said New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who also represents Boro Park.

Felder railed against the fees, bringing props to hearings to drive home his point. “Do you know how much a pound of bread costs today?” he asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a State Senate hearing in January, waving a loaf of Wonder Bread at the mayor.

So why does Orthodox Brooklyn love plastic bags so much? Hikind pointed to the large family sizes and high poverty levels as an explanation for the fierce opposition.

“In my community, when I go shopping on the weekend for shabbes, and I do the shopping, I’m coming home with 10, 12, 13, bags,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re paying 5 cents for something you weren’t paying for yesterday.”

Hikind suggested that residents of neighboring Park Slope, where the bag ban was popular, have smaller families. “A lot of that community, when you go shopping, all you need is one bag,” he said.

Backers of the bag bill, including New York City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope and a sliver of Boro Park, say that the idea is that people will bring reusable bags, and will not pay the fee. They also note that the city’s bill exempts people buying their groceries with public assistance from paying the fee.

“I’m very disappointed,” Lander said. “We’ve been working on this a long time. We did a two year fact-finding project, we had…public hearings, gave away hundreds of thousands of reusable bags.”

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected]

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.