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Plastic Bag Recycling for Retailers

What Stores Are Required to Comply?

While changes are expected pursuant to an agreement reached between the Governor and Legislature, effective January 1, 2009, 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, to:

  • 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. NOTE: There are slightly different requirements pertaining to enclosed malls which differ from free-standing stores and strip malls.
  • Ensure that collected plastics 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 related to plastic carryout bag recycling is an acceptable message which stores may use without seeking specific approval from DEC.
  • Keep records on their program. Stores, or their agents, 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 their ultimate disposition (e.g., where they were recycled).
  • Sell reusable bags. Stores are required to allow the use of reusable shopping bags and make them available to their customers for purchase.

Labeling of Plastic Bags

All plastic carryout bags given to consumers must state: "PLEASE RETURN TO A PARTICIPATING STORE FOR RECYCLING." Also acceptable is "PLEASE REUSE OR RECYCLE AT A PARTICIPATING STORE." We highly recommend using at least ½ inch lettering.

Stores may apply to the Commissioner of DEC for an alternate recycling message.

How To Set Up A Plastic Bag Recycling Program

Here are some simple steps to set up a successful plastic bag recycling program:

  • Place bins near the front of the store. We highly recommend bin(s) be large enough to hold 15 gallons or more. A sign must be posted indicating the bin location if it isn't near the store entrance.
  • Signage near the bin helps to deter consumers from putting trash in the bin.
  • Locate garbage cans in convenient locations for consumers to place their trash, so waste does not end up in the recycling bins.
  • Avoid recycling bins that resemble garbage cans.
  • Use transparent bins and transparent bags to enable better quality control.
  • In addition to posters at entrances, simple decals near bag stands and buttons on cashiers and baggers serve to inform customers that plastic bags are recyclable at your store. Also consider a decal with recycling facts at the cashier stand.
  • Train Employees to ensure the success of at store recycling programs. Make sure employees are aware of the recycling protocol. Have them point out the availability of store recycling bins.

Where to Get Bins

Please Note: This vendor list is by no means complete or comprehensive. Inclusion of a service in this list does not constitute approval or endorsement of that company by the NYSDEC, or provide any assurances with regard to the quality of services provided. Their environmental compliance has not been authenticated. Please contact the vendor to find out all pertinent information including costs. More listings will be found by searching the web.

Here are several companies that have bins:

Windsor Barrel Company
www.windsorbarrel.com

Recycle Clear
www.recycleclear.com

ClearStream Containers
www.clearstreamrecycler.com

The Fibrex Group
www.fibrexgroup.com/clear-view-recycling-bin.aspx

Empire Container Corporation
www.empirecontainercorp.com/

Here is a company that has a collection program for small quantity retail stores:

North Shore Recycled Fibers
jbrewer@tngus.com

Market Information

Empire State Development's Environmental Services Unit can provide recycling market information as well as resources for businesses that want to incorporate recycling or recycled content in their operations. They can be reached at (518) 292-5340 or at www.empire.state.ny.us/recycle

Local recycling coordinators may also be able to assist in the recycling of plastic bags. You can find a list of these coordinators at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8511.html

Reporting Requirements

The store will need to maintain records for a minimum of three years describing the collection, transportation, and recycling of plastic bags collected by weight. These records shall be made available to the DEC upon request.


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  • NYSDEC Bureau of Solid Waste, Reduction & Recycling 625 Broadway Albany, NY 12233-7253
    518-402-8706
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