Everything You Need to Know About the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Law - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Feb 9, 2020

Everything You Need to Know About the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Law

Starting on March 1, 2020, New York State is going to have to adopt a BYOB mindset - that is, bring your own bag. On this day, a new waste reduction law will go into effect, prohibiting single-use plastic bags across the state.

Read on to learn more about the Bag Waste Reduction Law and how it will affect you and your shopping habits.

What is the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Law?
The New York State Bag Waste Reduction Law is a ban against single-use plastic bags that prohibits any store that collects sales tax from distributing plastic shopping bags. While much attention has been placed on grocery stores, this rule also applies to small businesses and retailers. New York is the third state to enact the ban, following California and Hawaii.

Why is New York State banning plastic bags?
Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to our environment and health of our communities. Aside from being unsightly, stuck in trees and fencing or floating in water ways, it is consuming our landfills and poses a threat to wildlife who consume plastic, mistaking it for food. New York State alone typically uses 23 billion plastic bags each year, with average American families using approximately 1,500 every year. Eliminating single-use plastic bags distributed by retailers is an attempt to combat the rise of plastic usage.

Who will be affected by the plastic bag ban?
The ban will not only affect customers who rely on plastic bags being available at stores and businesses, but the places of service themselves, including:
       Grocery stores
       Small businesses

Are there exceptions to the ban?
There are a few exceptions to the ban, including bags used for prescription drugs, bags sold as trash bags and bags used by restaurants and service establishments to carry out or deliver food. Other exemptions include bags used for uncooked meat and fish, and bags used solely to deliver newspapers. To read the full list of bags deemed exempt by the DEC, click here.

What should I do now that plastic bags are banned?
Because stores will no longer be able to offer you plastic bags to transport your items, you should plan to bring your own bags to the store with you. Most stores will have reusable bags for sale and some may offer paper bags for sale as an alternative. For reference, the DEC defines a reusable bag as a bag that has a lifespan of at least 125 uses and can support at least 22 pounds. While most stores are planning to provide paper bags for purchase, it’s important to note that they are not required to do so - so bringing your own is the best bet!

Are paper bags banned?
Paper bags are not banned, however, counties and cities in New York will have the option to charge a fee for each bag. The $.05 fee is being applied to cut down on paper waste and encourage the use of reusable bags. For some local governments, 2 cents of each paper bag sale will be put toward a program to distribute reusable bags and the remaining 3 cents will be allocated to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

How do I prepare for the plastic bag ban?
If you’re wondering how to best prepare for the ban to go into effect, here are a few tips:
       Stock up on reusable bags. Looking around your house, you may be surprised to find that you may already have a few on hand. Think - tote bags you have received from different charities, jobs or school functions. If you don’t have any reusable bags lying around, you’re in luck - most grocery and retail stores have already begun selling them. Look for them in the checkout lanes at your favorite retailers.
       Keep your reusable bags at the ready. Never be without your reusable bags! Keep them by the door, that way you’re more likely to remember to grab them on your way to run errands. Keep a handful in your car to be prepared on the go.
       Purchase supplies. If you’re used to re-purposing your grocery bags for picking up your dog’s waste or lining your small trash cans at home, then you will need to prepare to use another solution. Look online and in-stores for bags that you need. There are many affordable bag options that are also biodegradable.

Can I recycle my plastic bags?
If you’re eager to contribute to the movement of fighting plastic pollution, you will still be able to recycle your plastic bags at businesses that are currently required to do so even after March 1, 2020.

While the plastic bag ban may provide initial inconvenience, understanding the law and preparing for it should help you with an easy transition.

If you’re feeling inspired to start incorporating more eco-friendly habits into your daily life, click on the button below to learn more about how you can start making environmentally conscious decisions at home.