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NYS Plastic Bag and Film Plastic Reduction

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

graphic of plastic bag with recycle symbol

New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act (Act) has been in effect since January 1, 2009. Governor Cuomo has recently signed amendments to the Act to include film plastics which are defined as "Uncontaminated Non-Rigid Film Plastic Packaging Products Composed of Plastic Resins, Which Include, But Are Not Limited To, Newspaper Bags, Dry Cleaning Bags And Shrink-Wrap." This amendment goes into effect on March 1, 2015.

Retail Stores Affected

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 and Film Plastics?

Each year, Americans throw away more than 100 billion plastic bags. Less than 1% are recycled. Recycling these bags and other film plastics reduces waste and litter, resulting in cleaner streets and waterways and less material in landfills. Recycling also protects wildlife because plastic bags and film plastics can be dangerous to animals that ingest them or are strangled by them. In addition, using recycled plastic films in place of virgin plastics reduces our demand for oil. Recycled plastic bags and film plastics 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, 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 and film plastics recycling program. Stores must make collection bins for plastic bags and film plastic recycling available to customers in a visible, easily accessible location. There are slightly different requirements for enclosed malls (see the law for details). The Plastic Film Recycling website has resources available including a tool kit containing signage and market information (link leaves DEC's website).
  • Ensure that collected plastic bags and film plastics are actually recycled. Stores are required to recycle the plastic bags and film plastic 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 and film plastics 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).

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