Plastic bag distributor fears new 5-cent fee

A longtime paper and plastic distributor in Brownsville says he's afraid the city's move to charge 5 cents on plastic bags will push him into bankruptcy.

A longtime paper and plastic distributor in Brownsville says he's afraid the city's move to charge 5 cents on plastic bags will push him into bankruptcy. (5/13/16)

BROOKLYN - A longtime paper and plastic distributor in Brownsville says he's afraid the city's move to charge 5 cents on plastic bags will push him into bankruptcy.

Eli Amsel says if customers start using less plastic at stores it will mean less business for him.

Amsel owns Lagmitz Paper and Plastic, which has been in business for more than 30 years.

The company has about 15 employees, although the total varies depending on the time of the year.

"It's supposed to be life, liberty [and] the pursuit of happiness," Amsel says. "This is totally the opposite, it's un-American. It's undemocratic."

The City Council passed a bill last week that will require most grocery stores to charge a 5-cent fee for disposable bags.  Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to sign it.

Critics call it an unfair tax, and Amsel calls it irrational.

"Plastic shopping bags are fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the plastic things manufactured in the world today," Amsel argues. "So why are they picking a plastic shopping bags? There is no rational answer."

Advocates of the bill say it's a way to protect the environment.

Amsel's employees fear for their jobs.

"We need to save our jobs," says Jose De Jesus, who has worked for Amsel for around six years. "Otherwise I'm going to have to get another job, and I don't want that. I want to stay here until I get old."

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