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Frequently Asked Questions about Plastic Bag Recycling

What is the definition of "a store" under the new law?

A store means a retail establishment or a chain store that provides plastic carry out bags to its customers as a result of the sale of a product. Retail establishments with more than 10,000 square feet of retail space and chain stores (defined as a retail establishment under common ownership and management engaged in the same general field of business that operates five or more units with more than 5,000 square feet of retail space) are included.

For chain stores, does the law apply to all stores in the chain or only those stores with more than 5,000 square feet of retail space?

The law applies to all stores in the chain.

What about Shopping Malls?

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.

Apart from the plastic carry out bags covered by the law, can I recycle any other plastic bags in my store's recycling bins?

Yes. Most stores will also accept the following materials (check with your store for details):

Plastic retail bags with string ties and rigid plastic handles removed
Plastic newspaper bags
Plastic dry-cleaning bags
Plastic produce bags with all food residue removed
Plastic bread bags with all food residue removed
Plastic cereal bags with all food residue removed
Plastic frozen food bags with all food residue removed
Plastic wrap from paper products (paper towels, etc)
Plastic stretch/shrink wrap with all food residue removed
Plastic zipper-type bags with plastic closing mechanism removed

(Note: All materials must be clean and dry)

BUT These Items Can Not be Recycled With Plastic Bags:

Plastic bags with strings, rigid plastic handles, closing mechanisms
or food residue
Plastic soil or mulch bags
Plastic bubble wrap
Plastic food containers
Plastic bottles

What about Biodegradable, Compostable Bags?

Compostable bags cannot be recycled. They must be labeled "COMPOSTABLE BAG - DO NOT PLACE IN RECYCLING BIN"

What about Reusable Bags?

The store must make reusable bags available for purchase and allow customers to use reusable bags in lieu of plastic or paper bags.

What is the definition of a Reusable Bag?

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.

What about stores that still have plastic bags in stock without the required message "please return to a participating store for recycling" or "please reuse or recycle at a participating store"?

Stores will be allowed to use existing stock for up to one year. Once the existing stock is depleted but no later than January 1, 2010, properly labeled bags must be used. If you would like to use a different recycling message from that quoted in the law, you can seek approval from DEC.

DEC highly recommends using at least ½ inch lettering, in a color that contrasts with the bag.

For more information, please email DEC at recycling@dec.ny.gov or call (518) 402-8705.

How long must stores maintain records?

Record keeping will be required for the life of this law. Stores must retain, at a minimum, three years of records at the store.

What recyclers accept plastic bags?

Staff of the Empire State Development's Environmental Services Unit can provide recycling market information. They can be reached at (518) 292-5340 or at www.empire.state.ny.us/recycle

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 companies that have a collection program for small quantity retail stores:

North Shore Recycled Fibers

Poly-Pak Industries, Inc.

Billy Watterson or
Morgan Vogt at Watterson Environmental Group
or visit them on the web
at www.g2rev.com

Are stores responsible for ensuring that plastic bags are properly recycled?


How can stores ensure that plastic bags are recycled?

Stores should contact their waste/recycling hauler to get assurances that plastic bags are properly handled and recycled.

Would using bags as a fuel source qualify under this law as recycling?

No. In New York State, recycling does not include conversion to energy. Therefore, incorporating plastic bags into fuel products will not qualify as recycling under this law.

If I bring my bags back for recycling, does that mean I am getting used bags at the check out?

No. All plastic bags collected in this program will be sent to a recycling facility to be manufactured into a new product like composite lumber, trash can liners or new plastic bags.

I think my store is covered by the law, but there are no collection bins for plastic bags. What should I do?

If plastic bag collection containers are not available in a regulated store, please email DEC at recycling@dec.ny.gov or call (518) 402-8706.

  • Contact for this Page
    Division of Materials Management
    Bureau of Waste Reduction & Recycling
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-7253
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