Legislation introduced in the City Council on Wednesday would charge a 10 cent fee for every paper or plastic bag used in the city.
Supporters say New Yorkers use more than five billion plastic bags a year.
They also say it costs the city about $10 million each year to transport 100,000 tons of bags to landfills.
"I think this is a problem we all know and see with our own eyes. We see the bags up in our trees, we see them clogging up the storm drains," said City Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn.
Produce street vendors would be covered under the law, though food vendors would not. The stores would keep the money from the surcharge.
Customers who use food stamps would not be charge the fee.
Reaction among shoppers was mixed.
"We're charged for the wrappings on our tissues, on the paper towels, and stuff like that. It's unnecessary, I don't think it's necessary that we should pay 10 cents for a plastic bag," said one New Yorker.
"It's a travesty, I mean people can hardly pay their bills as is, you have a lot of people unemployed, still trying to get health insurance. So I think it's totally wrong to have to pay to take your groceries home, whatever little bit of groceries you can afford to buy," said another New Yorker.
"If you have to pay, you have to pay. I mean you gotta get your groceries home someway, unless you wanna use the other bags, the reusable ones," said a third New Yorker.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says he has not seen the legislation yet, but he agrees with it in principle.
"Plastic bags are a problem, and our goal has to be to reduce the use of plastic bags. There's a lot of different ways to do that. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing this legislation, but I can tell you as a societal goal, it's something we have to work on and work on quickly," De Blasio said.
The group that represents bodega owners says it supports the goal of reducing plastic bag usage but it wants to see more public education.
A similar bill last year did not get very far in the City Council. This time, though, sponsors say they have more support and are confident it will pass.