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NYS Plastic Bag Reduction

New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act

graphic of plastic bag with recycle symbol

Effective January 1, 2009, a new statewide law requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a plastic carry out bag recycling program for their customers.

Stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry out bags to customers, are required to comply with the law.

The owner of an enclosed shopping mall is required to place recycling bins at reasonable intervals throughout the mall. Large mall stores (50,000 square feet or more of retail space) are required to establish their own plastic carry out bag recycling programs.

Why Recycle Plastic Bags?

Each year, Americans throw away more than 100 billion plastic bags. Less than 1% are recycled. Recycling these bags reduces waste and litter, resulting in cleaner streets and waterways and less material in landfills. Recycling also protects wildlife because plastic bags can be dangerous to animals that ingest them or are strangled by them. In addition, using recycled plastic bags in place of virgin plastics reduces our demand for oil. Recycled plastic bags provide valuable material to manufacturers of plastic lumber, plastic bags and other useful products.

Avoiding the Use of Plastic Bags Helps Even More

Instead of using a plastic bag, you can:

cloth bag

Use canvas, cloth or a durable plastic bag.

Reusable bags are more environmentally friendly than paper or plastic. Under the law, any store required to recycle plastic bags must also sell reusable bags. Keep them in your car for the next time you have to run out for groceries.

Say "No thank you."

Not all items require a bag so tell the clerk, "No thank you." Carry small purchase items, like a magazine, candy, or a drink, to the car instead of in a plastic bag.

Tell a friend.

Get others to recycle and use reusable bags.

What are Stores Required to Do?

green plastic barrel for recycling plastic bags
  • Establish an "at-store" plastic bag recycling program. Stores must make collection bins for plastic bag recycling available to customers in a visible, easily accessible location. There are slightly different requirements for enclosed malls (see the law for details). The American Chemistry Council (link in the right column of this page) has resources available including a tool kit containing signage and market information.
  • Ensure that collected plastic bags are actually recycled. Stores are required to recycle the plastic bags collected and are prohibited from disposing of the collected plastics as solid waste.
  • Label all plastic bags. Any bags distributed in affected stores must state Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling or a similar message approved by the DEC. The message required pursuant to New York City Local Law 1 of 2008, Please reuse or recycle at a participating store, is acceptable. (Note: If you use biodegradable compostable bags, they must be labeled Compostable bag--Do not place in recycling bin)
  • Keep records. Stores are required to maintain records describing the collection, transport and recycling of plastic bags for at least three years. The records must include the weight of plastics collected and where they were recycled.
  • Sell reusable bags. Stores are required to offer reusable bags to their customers for purchase and allow the use of reusable shopping bags. (Note: A reusable bag is made of cloth or other machine washable fabric that has handles or is a durable plastic bag with handles made for multiple use).

More about NYS Plastic Bag Reduction :

  • NYS Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Law - Effective January 1, 2009, a new statewide law requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a plastic carry out bag recycling program for their customers.
  • Plastic Bag Recycling for Retailers - The law, as adopted, requires stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carryout bags to its customers as a result of a product sale
  • Plastic Bag Recycling for Consumers - Consumers will be able to recycle plastic carryout bags at certain retail stores and most grocery stores.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Plastic Bag Recycling - Frequently asked questions for the new statewide law that requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a recycling program for customers to return plastic bags for recycling.
  • Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Plastic Bag Labeling - These are frequently asked questions about the labeling of plastic bags regarding. The effective date of this law was January 1, 2009, stores subject to this requirement have until January 1, 2010 to use their existing stock, which may not otherwise be labeled in accordance with the required statement.