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Frequently Asked Questions for Plastic Bag Legislation

These FAQs relate only to requirements under the state ECL, not to any applicable Tax, State Finance or Agriculture and Markets laws.

What is the Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Law?

Article 27 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) has been amended to create a new Title 28 for the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act.  The law takes effect March 1, 2020 and prohibits the distribution of plastic carryout bags by retailers in New York state.

Which retailers are no longer allowed to provide plastic bags?

Any retailer required to collect New York State sales tax will no longer be able to provide plastic carryout bags, as defined in Title 28 of the ECL, to their customers.

What does the term “plastic carryout bag” mean? Does this include all plastic bags?

A plastic carryout bag is any plastic bag made of film plastic, bioplastic, biodegradable materials, compostable plastic, plant-based materials, or decomposable materials.

The following plastic bags may still be distributed if they are:

  • Bags used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish or poultry;
  • Bags used by a consumer solely to package bulk items such as fruits, vegetables, grains or candy;
  • Bags used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order;
  • Bags used solely to contain a newspaper for delivery to a subscriber;
  • Bags sold in bulk to a consumer at the point of sale;
  • Trash bags;
  • Food storage bags;
  • Garment bags;
  • Bags prepackaged for sale to a customer;
  • Plastic carryout bags provided by a restaurant, tavern, or similar food service establishment, as defined in the state sanitary code, to carry out or deliver food; or
  • Bags provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.

Are film plastic bags with a thickness of 2.25 millimeters or higher considered plastic carryout bags for purposes of the ban?

Yes. Film plastic bags that are 2.25 millimeters or thicker are still considered plastic carryout bags and are not considered reusable bags under Article 27 Title 28 of the ECL.  Most reusable bags offered for sale at checkout, provided they are made of a material other than film plastic, are not prohibited under the law.

What is considered a reusable bag? What does the term “durable” mean within the definition of a reusable bag?

A reusable bag is a bag with handles that is either made of cloth or another machine washable fabric, or is a durable bag made for multiple uses.

Under current industry standards, a durable bag has a minimum lifespan of 125 uses (one use is equivalent to carrying a minimum of 22 pounds over a distance of at least 175 feet) that holds 22 lbs. for the duration of the lifespan of the bag, has a volume capacity of not less than 15 liters, has a minimum fabric weight of 80 GSM, and has at least one handle that does not stretch and is fastened to the bag in such a manner that it allows the bag to meet the strength standards outlined above and additionally is a bag:

  • made of cloth or other washable fabric that has handles and is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse; or
  • made of non-film plastic washable material that has handles and is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse; or 
  • that is not made of film plastic, bioplastic, biodegradable materials, compostable plastic, plant-based materials, or decomposable materials.

How does this law affect the current NYS Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Law? Can I still bring my exempt bags, leftover bags and other film plastic to be recycled?

This law expressly keeps the requirements for retail stores required under Title 27 of Article 27 of the ECL to continue to collect film plastic from consumers for recycling.