Plastic Bag Bans and what they mean

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As of October 19, 2020, any “person required to collect tax” must not distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt bags as provided for in the Bag Waste Reduction Law. – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Website

Despite being temporarily put on hold due to the pandemic and a lawsuit brought by a plastic bag manufacturer; the New York State DEC will begin enforcing the law according to the New York State Supreme Court’s ruling.  

What does this mean for NY’s retailers and consumers? For retailers, they can no longer have the familiar plastic shopping bags that have been deemed “single use” available.  The exceptions to the rule are plastic bags like produce bags; a pharmacy bag used to carry prescription drugs; deli bags; trash bags; garment bags from a dry cleaner; carry out bags for restaurants and those used to deliver the newspaper. 

For consumers, they can still bring any type of bag with them to the store (including that stash of single use bags everyone has) but the law is aimed at reducing the amount of plastic. Ideally, they want consumers to switch to a more environmentally friendly bag that can be washed and used many times.  Some examples are a polypropylene non woven bag (PPNW); jute/canvas; RPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate) or a laminated PPNW bag for extra rigidity and strength.

If you forget to bring a bag(s) with you; retailers may only have reusable bags for sale or may offer paper bags which will have a small nickel “tax” added to your bill. Retailers are NOT required to have bags available for you although most of them will.  

The NY ban is one of many that have slowly start to roll across the country.  Other areas are already seeing the change as well. The City of Cincinnati and all of Cuyahoga County are banning single use bags beginning January 2021; many areas of South Carolina also have bans as do many areas of the Pacific Northwest.  There are a number of locales in New Jersey; Maine; Connecticut; and New Mexico (to name a few) that have various bans/restrictions in place.

Not all areas ban plastic completely either. Some require thicker plastic be used rendering the bags suitable for more than one use however, there is a higher cost involved in those bags. That higher cost the retailer pays will ultimately pass onto consumers as well. Some states charge a “tax” for various types of bags so it is important to understand what your area is legislating. For a more comprehensive list of bans and their requirements, please check out

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