Preparing for the NYS Plastic Bag Ban

New York is the second state in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bags.

As part of the FY 2019-20 State Budget, New York became the second state in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bags. As of March 1, 2020, retailers will be able to offer customers only reusable or paper bags for most purchases. If a county or city opts-in to a $0.05 fee on paper bags, the store will also have to charge customers a fee per bag. The intent of the local fee is to encourage customers to switch to reusable bags instead of paper because  – like single-use plastic bags – paper bags also have a negative environmental impact.

If a county decides to opt-in to the fee, the Comptroller will return $0.02 per bag (or 40% of the total revenue collected) to the county to purchase and distribute reusable bags, with priority given to low- and fixed-income communities. The remaining $0.03 will be deposited into the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The paper bag fee will not apply to customers using the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

Not all plastic bags will be banned under the new law. Customers can still use plastic bags to wrap uncooked meat and fish, package produce and bulk candy, carry out food from a restaurant, and transport prescription drugs from a pharmacy. There are also exemptions for garment bags, trash bags, food storage bags, and bags used for newspaper delivery.

Prior to the adoption of a statewide plastic bag ban in New York, several municipalities adopted their own measures. The New York City Council approved a $0.05 fee on plastic bags in May 2016, but state lawmakers voted to block the local law before it became effective.

Suffolk County was the first county outside of New York City to legislate on the issue, imposing a $0.05 fee on plastic and paper bags that went into effect in January 2018. Beginning on January 1, 2020, Ulster County will become the first New York county to ban plastic bags. The county will also require stores to charge $0.05 for paper bags.

For more information about the new law, click here to read NYSAC's white paper on plastic bags.

For a deeper dive, you can also watch NYSAC's webinar on the ban, featuring the state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Suffolk County Majority Leader Kara Hahn, Ulster County Chairwoman Tracey Bartels, State Senator Jen Metzger, and representatives from Price Chopper and Wegmans.

To learn more about the different policies state lawmakers considered before deciding on a ban/local fee hybrid, click here to read the NYS Plastic Bag Task Force's report on options for plastic bag legislation.