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Plastic Bag and Film Plastics Recycling for Retailers

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

New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act (Act) has been in effect since January 1, 2009. Former Governor Cuomo 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 went 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.

What Stores Are Required to Comply?

Effective January 1, 2009, the law required 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 film plastic 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 plastic bags and other film plastics are actually recycled. Stores are required to recycle the film plastic collected and are prohibited from disposing of the collected film 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") related to plastic carryout bag recycling is an acceptable message which stores may use without seeking specific approval from DEC. A store must apply to the Department for approval of any other alternative plastic bag recycling message.
  • Keep records on their program. Stores, or their agents, are required to maintain records describing the collection, transport and recycling of film plastics for at least three years. The records must include the weight of film 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." In order to be adequately visible to a consumer, the statement should be located on the outside face of the bag and the lettering should be at least one-half inch in height.

Stores may apply to the Commissioner of DEC for an alternate recycling message using one of the following methods:

In writing to:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Division of Materials Management

Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling

625 Broadway Albany, New York 12233-7253

By email to:

By fax to: (518) 402-9024

Biodegradable, Compostable Bags

Compostable bags cannot be recycled in film plastics recycling bins or household recycling bins. They must be labeled "COMPOSTABLE BAG - DO NOT PLACE IN RECYCLING BIN"

How To Set Up A Film Plastic Recycling Program

  • Place recycling 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 recycling 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 film plastics 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.

You can get free, downloadable signage (Link leaves DEC's website) for bins.

Information on Recycling Film Plastic Retailers (PDF) 107kb


The law provides that upon the first finding of a violation, a store will be issued a warning without penalty. The penalty for a second violation is $100 and the penalty for a third or subsequent violation is $500.

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.

Follow this link for information on where to get bins. (Link leaves DEC's website)

Finding a Recycler

Follow this link for help to find a recycler. (Link leaves DEC's website)

Local recycling coordinators may also be able to assist in the recycling of plastic bags. Find a list of recycling coordinators here.

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.