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Bag Waste Reduction Law

The plastic bag ban, which went into effect on March 1, 2020, was not enforced per an agreement between the parties in a lawsuit brought by Poly-Pak Industries, Inc., et al., in New York State Supreme Court. The Court issued a decision on August 20, 2020, upholding the law and most of the Part 351 regulations. DEC will begin enforcing the law and the regulations, in accordance with the Court's decision, on October 19, 2020.

As of October 19, 2020, any "person required to collect tax" must not distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt bags as provided for in the Bag Waste Reduction Law.

Watch a clip about reusable bags and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

Bring Your Own Bag New York - #BYOBagNY

various types of reusable bags for use at stores

Consumer Participation

On March 1, 2020, a new bag waste reduction law took effect in New York State - where over 23 billion plastic bags are typically used each year. Plastic bag usage affects both our communities and environment. Plastic bags can be seen stuck in trees, as litter in our neighborhoods, and floating in our waterways. From the significant recycling and disposal issues they pose to the harm they can do to wildlife, the negative impacts of plastic bags are easily seen.

As a consumer, you can help and #BYOBagNY (leaves DEC website) - Bring Your Own Bag. Keep reusable bags in your car, or clip folding reusable bags onto your commuting bag or purse so you always have them handy. If you store them near the door or coat closet, you'll be more likely to remember them on the way out. Remember that every time you use a reusable bag, you are doing your part to prevent litter and waste. Using reusable bags makes sense and is the right thing to do. You can also remind your family, friends, and neighbors to bring their reusable bags whenever they shop.

The Bag Waste Reduction Law applies to more than just grocery stores. Whether you're going to the grocery store, clothes shopping, or to a home improvement store, make sure to bring your reusable bags.

Types of Bags You Can Use

While shoppers can bring any type of bag -- including film plastic -- note that there are many alternatives to choose from which are more environmentally friendly. Ideally, a bag should be washable and designed for multiple uses, such as one made from cloth. If you forget to bring a bag with you, many retailers will have reusable bags for sale. An alternative, such as paper, may also be available. Please note that not all "person required to collect tax" are required to have bags available for customers. Some stores may choose not to switch to paper and may only have reusable bags for purchase. That is why it is important for consumers to #BYOBagNY leaves DEC website) - Bring Your Own Bag. If you have a small purchase, such as a magazine, candy or drink, you can help our environment by saying "No thank you" to a single use paper bag and carrying the item instead.

Cleaning Your Reusable Bags

Reusable products can be used safely with basic cleaning practices, just like many items in our everyday lives. According to the CDC (leaves DEC website), the main way people are infected with COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying the virus. It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, but the risk is generally considered to be low. DEC encourages New Yorkers to use reusable bags and to take common-sense precautions to keep their reusable bags clean. Following basic cleaning steps can help ensure your reusable bags stay as clean as all of your other belongings, like clothing and cell phones.

To reduce the spread of germs, separate meat, fish or poultry, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods in separate bags. Dedicate one bag for meat, fish, or poultry, another for fresh fruits and vegetables, and another for ready-to-eat foods. Customers may also choose to pack their own groceries into their reusable bags.

Wash reusable grocery bags often. Reusable bags made of cloth or other machine washable fabric should be washed in a washing machine using laundry detergent and dried in the dryer or air-dried. Before storing, be sure reusable bags are completely dry. Reusable bags are best stored in a cool, dry place when possible.

Learn more about best practices for cleaning your reusable bag as recommended by New York State Department of Health. (leaves DEC website)

The Bag Waste Reduction Law and Who it Affects

As of March 1, 2020, all plastic carryout bags (other than an exempt bag) became banned from distribution by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax. For sales that are tax exempt, plastic carry out bags are still not allowed to be distributed by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax (unless it is an exempt bag). The law affects anyone required to collect New York State sales tax, bag manufacturers and consumers. Cities and counties are also involved. Under the law:

  • cities and counties are authorized to adopt a five-cent paper carry-out bag reduction fee. This means that in these areas, a consumer will be charged 5 cents for each paper carryout bag provided at checkout. In areas that have adopted the five-cent paper carryout bag reduction fee, the fee does not apply to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children -- a nutrition program) recipients, and they are exempt from paying a paper carryout bag reduction fee for paper carryout bags. One way to avoid paper bag fees no matter where you are across New York State is to always bring your own bag.
  • stores covered under the NYS Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act are still required to collect plastic bags and other film plastics from consumers for recycling. (Film plastics include items such as bread bags and plastic wraps that come over cases of water, paper towels and other similar items). As a consumer you can help by continuing to recycle these items at participating retailers.

Exempt Bags

Some bags are exempt under the law, so plastic bags may still be distributed to consumers in a few specific circumstances, such as a bag used by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs, and produce bags for bulk items such as fruits and vegetables. But as a consumer, you can aid in protecting our environment by using reusable bags as much as possible.

Submitting a Plastic Bag Ban Complaint

Complaints of non-compliance relating to the NYS Bag Waste Reduction Law, the Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse & Recycling Law and the corresponding regulations (6 NYCRR Part 351) can be submitted to DEC. To file a complaint:

Complaints involving stores distributing plastic bags or stores not hosting a film plastic collection bin will be addressed by the Department. The Department will follow-up on complaints and may perform an on-site inspection to determine compliance. A copy of the inspection form (PDF, 257kb) can be viewed by clicking on the highlighted link.

Complaints about the 5-cent paper carryout bag reduction fee should be submitted to the enacting municipality. Complaints involving sales tax or the taxable sale of a paper carryout bag should be submitted to the NYS Department of Tax & Finance (leaves DEC website). Consumers with price gouging concerns should contact the NYS Division of Consumer Protection (leaves DEC website).

More Information

You can access the full text version of the Bag Waste Reduction law (Environmental Conservation Law ECL Article 27, Title 28)(leaves DEC website). Technical information for manufacturers or retailers is available regarding the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act.

Bag Waste Reduction Law Outreach Materials - resources for to help remind the public to bring their own bags #BYOBagNY

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