Prepare for 2020 Plastic Bag Ban in New York

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UPDATE: Plastic bag use will continue during the coronavirus pandemic.  State officials have announced they will start enforcing the ban May 15, 2020.

It is time to remember your reusable shopping bags when you go to the store!

Shopping in New York State is about to be a different experience for many of us.  Starting as soon as January 27th of 2020, stores will be getting rid of carryout plastic bags due to a law passed to ban their use.  

So when does the plastic bag ban officially take effect in New York?  Are all plastic bags banned?  What about paper bags, and will you have to pay a fee to use them at your grocery store? 

Read on to have your questions answered about the 2020 Plastic Bag Ban happening soon at a store near you.

When the plastic bag ban takes effect in New York

The New York State Bag, Waste Reduction Act, starts on March 1, 2020.

Wegmans, however, plans to implement over one month sooner. Beginning January 27th, the Rochester-based supermarket chain will stop using single-use plastic bags in all of its New York stores.

What the plastic bag ban does

New York will be the third state to ban single-use plastic shopping bags in grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retail establishments. California was the first back in 2016, and Hawaii, while not a state-wide ban, has all counties in the state banning their use.

Under the law, any establishment required to collect tax will no longer be able to provide plastic single-use carryout bags to their customers to carry out goods.

The ban does not apply to reusable bags with handles made of cloth or another durable material.

NYS Exceptions to the plastic bag ban

There are some instances when it is OK for a store to hand out goods in a plastic bag.  These exceptions include when a plastic bag contains:

  • raw meat, including beef, fish or poultry
  • bulk food items
  • sliced or prepared deli foods
  • newspapers
  • prescription drugs

Also exempt are plastic bags sold in bulk, food-storage bags, trash bags, garment bags, and bags used for carryout orders at a restaurant.

Why the plastic bag ban is important

Using plastic bags affects our communities and environment by littering neighborhoods, disrupting water systems, and harming wildlife.

Environmental organizations have long pushed for a ban on plastic bags.  They not only feel it is a way to cut down on pollution but also a way to encourage reusable bags when people shop.

Who the ban affects

The law affects anyone that is required to collect New York State Sales tax, consumers, bag manufacturers, cities, and counties.

What about paper bags

Paper bags are still permitted, and while not required to, counties and cities can impose a five-cent fee for each paper bag used.

Why counties and cities would charge a fee

Counties and cities might choose to charge a fee for using paper bags to encourage reusable bags and cut down on paper waste. 

For the local governments that do impose the expense, a portion of the funds will be put toward a program to distribute reusable bags throughout the community. 

Environmental groups not only wanted plastic bags banned, but they hoped for a mandatory fee on paper bags.  They argue that paper bags are not environmentally friendly either, and so without the expense paper bag use will increase.  Paper bags could still litter roadways and water systems. 

Does New York charge for bags?

Erie, Niagara, and Monroe counties will not be imposing this five-cent fee.

However, Wegmans stores across New York State will charge a five-cent fee per paper bag used in-store.  In the counties and cities not imposing the fee, Wegmans will donate the proceeds to local food banks.

Why Wegmans is charging for paper bags

Wegmans opposes this plastic bag ban as it gives paper bags as an option, which is not economical or environmentally friendly. Paper bags are seven times more costly than their synthetic counterpart, which means they are that much more expensive to keep on hand.

By not imposing a mandatory five-cent fee on paper bags, consumers are more likely to increase their use of paper bags. Expenses will go up for the retailer to have more paper bags on hand as a convenience for consumers.  Plus, paper bags can still end up littering our communities and are not an environmentally friendly option.

Instead, it is Wegman’s goal to eliminate all single-use bags and encourage its customers to switch entirely to reusable bags.

It is essential to keep in mind that reusable bags when manufactured do require additional resources, plus they are not recyclable.  In the long run, they must be used by consumers regularly to replace paper and plastic bags entirely. 

Above all, reusable bags are the best way to reduce all single-bag use and make a positive impact on the environment. 

So as a shopper, have you prepared for this change?

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  1. What about those plastic produce bags? Do we have to bring our own cloth ones? Do you know?

  2. i usually grab an empty big box at aldi – or leave a laundry basket in my trunk – no biggy

    • That’s a good idea! Honestly, I have been spoiled just always grabbing the plastic bags in store. I bring them back to recycle but this ban will force me to have to remember something to carry my stuff home in!

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