New Yorkers can finally say goodbye to single-use plastic bags for good, as a statewide ban goes into effect on March 1st.
New York’s Plastic Bag Ban Begins March 1st
Starting 1 March, 2020, all plastic carryout bags (other than an exempt bag) are 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 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said. The law will affect anyone required to collect New York State sales tax, bag manufacturers and consumers. Cities and counties will also be involved.
The plastic bag ban is the latest in a series of eco-friendly actions by Governor Cuomo
In advance of 1 March 2020, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new education and outreach campaign to make sure all New Yorkers are aware of the ban and its environmental pluses. — reported Patch
The BYOBagNY campaign, spearheaded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, includes television and radio advertisements, social media, Google ads, and events hosted by Feeding New York State food banks across the state, a release from Mayor Cuomo’s office said.
"Right this minute, plastic bags are hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, filling up our landfills and polluting our lakes, rivers and streams — all hurting our environment," Cuomo said. "Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We took bold action to protect our environment and ban these environmental blights and with this campaign we’re going to make sure New Yorkers are ready and have all the facts."
Under the new law, cities and counties are authorised to adopt a 5-cent paper carry-out bag reduction fee.
In these areas, a consumer will be charged 5 cents for each paper carryout bag provided at checkout, the DEC said. One way to avoid paper bag fees no matter where you are across New York State is to always bring your own bag, the DEC said.
To help consumers, the DEC is distributing more than 270,000 reusable bags with a focus on low- and moderate-income communities, Cuomo said. In addition, the DEC is reaching out to stakeholders and industry associations, including the Food Industry Alliance, the Retail Council, New York State Association of Counties and convenience stores, and partnering with New York State agencies to distribute reusable bags and spread the BYOBagNY message.
The DEC is also providing its nine regional offices with BYOBagNY educational materials — and is working with New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to coordinate cross-agency efforts related to clear communication regarding collection of state sales tax.
"New York continues to be a national leader on environmental issues, and the plastic bag ban is the latest in a series of actions Governor Cuomo has directed to preserve our air, land, and waters for future generations," said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.
Cuomo signed legislation to ban the sale of single-use plastic bags in New York State on 23 April, 2019 — Earth Day.
New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually — each for about 12 minutes — and approximately 85% of that "staggering total" ends up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways and streets, Cuomo said.
Environmentalists praise New York plastic bag ban
In March, 2017, Cuomo created the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force, chaired by Seggos, to develop a "uniform, comprehensive and equitable solution" to the challenge of plastic bag waste, the release said.
Environmentalists Praise Ban
"The bag ban that goes into effect March 1 is an historic and meaningful step forward and fighting plastic pollution. It is a big change for Long Island and New York State we are overjoyed to finally be celebrating the long-overdue death of the plastic bag," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
The 23 billion plastic bags used by New Yorkers every year end up on beaches and in streets and parks; they also make their way into waterways and kill wildlife and marine mammals, she said.
"Plastic bags have been contributing to the plastic pollution crises in our oceans for decades. On March 1, after working for 10 years to ban plastic bags we will finally be free of these harmful unnecessary pollutants," Esposito said.
Esposito acknowledged that the ban means consumers will have to change their habits, and remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery store and local shops.
But, she said, the end result is a win-win: "We can do this! It’ll take a little effort but will be definitely worth it in the end. It is all of our responsibility to fight plastic pollution, and this is one small thing everyone can do to help. We just have to get on the plastic bag ban wagon," she said.
Suffolk County has seen a 1.1 billion reduction in plastic bag use after 5-cent fee
Locally, in 2019, one year after Suffolk County imposed a 5-cent fee on single use plastic and paper bags, government officials, environmentalists and others gathered for the unveiling of a report that indicates a drastic reduction — to the tune of 1.1 billion less — in the use of plastic bags.
"The legislation enacting a nickel fee changed public behavior in three ways — more people are bringing reusable bags to stores, more people are not using any bags, and those that are still using plastic bags are using much less. Our reports reveals an 80% reduction in plastic bag use in 2018 from 2017. Now, that’s progress," Esposito said at the time.
According to data compiled, Esposito said, in 2017, the number of individuals using reusable bags was 5%; in 2018 it was 26%. In 2017, the number of people not taking any plastic bags was 20%, compared to 37% in 2018. And, while in 2017 the number of people using plastic bags was 71%, in 2018 it was 28%.
For more information about the plastic bag ban, click here.
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.
You can access the full text version of the Bag Waste Reduction law (Environmental Conservation Law ECL Article 27, Title 28). (Link leaves DEC’s website) Technical information for manufacturers or retailers is available regarding the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act.
More about Bag Waste Reduction Law: Information for Consumers:
- Bag Waste Reduction Law: Information for Manufacturers and Retailers – Frequently asked questions about the Plastic Bag Ban (Article 27, Title 28 New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act). The law takes effect March 1, 2020 and prohibits the distribution of plastic carryout bags by certain retailers in New York state.
- Plastic Bag and Film Plastics Recycling for Consumers – Consumers will be able to recycle plastic carryout bags at certain retail stores and most grocery stores.
- Plastic Bag and Film Plastics Recycling for Retailers – The law, as adopted, requires 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
- NYS Plastic Bag Task Force – a thorough analysis of the impacts of single-use plastic bags and provides several options for legislation that could help develop a statewide solution to the problem