Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the stage at the Tilles Center to make his announcement on Earth Day that New York will ban single-use plastic bags. (Photo by Rita Langdon, LIU)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to the campus of Long Island University to celebrate the 49th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 when he signed historic legislation to ban single-use plastic bags. The law goes into effect next March.

More than 200 people attended the bill signing ceremony held at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post. On hand for this memorable occasion were LIU Chairman of the Board of Trustees Eric Krasnoff, LIU President Dr. Kimberly R. Cline, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, State Senators Jim Gaughran, John Brooks and Anna Kaplan, as well as dozens of students and faculty.

As reported in Newsday, Cuomo said that single-use plastic shopping bags litter our highways and waterways. He conceded that shoppers will have to remember to bring along reusable bags when they go shopping but he called it “a minor inconvenience” and added that “in the scope of life it’s such a trivial thing.”

But left unchecked, plastic bags add up to a big environmental problem. Experts predict that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish, by weight, in the world’s oceans. Governor Cuomo noted that nationwide, Americans use an estimated 100 billion single-use plastic bags each year. An average American family typically discards 1,500 single-use plastic bags annually.

“The banning of plastic bags is something we have been talking about for years,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This bag issue is not in isolation. You would have to be blind not to see the impact of climate change. You would have to be blind not to see the impact of extreme weather everywhere. We are literally destroying the planet and we know it.”

The time for action was clear, the governor said.

“It’s about making a change and making a change fast,” he said. “New York has always been a leader when it comes to leading on the tough problems. We lead the way on the environment once again.”

He announced this new policy at LIU because it’s a demonstrated national leader in the area of sustainability. The University has also been named by The Princeton Review as one of America’s top Green Colleges.