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The NYS Bag Waste Reduction Law FAQ

plastic shopping bag caught on branches

NY State Plastic Bag Ban: What You Need to Know

The State of New York, like many parts of the United States, has been struggling with the overwhelming environmental problem of plastic bags. Convenient: yes; troublesome: also yes.  If you have been shopping in any of your local grocery stores recently, can’t miss the message that it’s on the way.

What is the bag ban?

The New York State plastic bag ban is going into effect as of March 1, 2020. When you visit any local grocery or retail shops after that date, you must come prepared with your own bags or purchase them at the checkout.

Why are grocery bags being banned?

Plastic bags are responsible for all types of damage to wildlife, the environment, and eventually make their way into our food chain. In New York City alone, there are more than 10 billion single use carry out shopping bags used every single year. The cost of disposal is more than $12 million annually. These plastic bags can be seen everywhere…blowing along the street, through parks, hanging from trees and power lines. They clog streams and waterways, and can last centuries in a landfill.

Does this mean no one can use plastic bags?

No. This law is designed to limit what is known as “single use” or “to-go” bags. There are exemptions for a number of items. Think about it like this: you can go to your local grocery or retail store to purchase trash bags, storage and sandwich bags for your kids lunches, or liner bags for your slow cooker, but when you go to check out you cannot get a plastic carryout bag from the store to put them in.

What is exempt from the ban?

  • Restaurants and eating establishments that offer take out meals for delivery and pick up
  • Uncooked meat, fish or poultry
  • Laundry services and dry cleaners
  • Newspaper delivery
  • Bags used by pharmacies to carry percent reduction drugs

How am I supposed to carry my stuff out of the store?

Actually, stores are not obligated to give you any type of bag at all for your purchase, and single use bags are not available at all, not even for sale.  There are a number of different options that many retail establishments are already providing:

  • Paper bags: These are still permissible and many stores may offer them. They are also allowed, if they wish, to charge $0.5 for each of them.
  • Reusable plastic bags: Most grocery stores have been offering these and encouraging their use for quite some time. They are typically available for purchase at the checkout and a lot of them are branded with their store logo. For the most part these are cheap and you can get as many as you like. For instance, Hannaford was recently offering theirs for sale at 2/$1.00 in anticipation of the law taking effect.
  • Thermal/Insulated Bags: You may see some stores also start offering thermal or insulated bags designs typically for frozen foods.

Shopping Tips

  • Save and recycle your current stash of plastic bags for shopping
  • Purchase a number of reusable bags – they are very affordable and super convenient.
  • In order to Make sure you always have bags for shopping, some in your car at all times

The NYS Bag Waste Reduction Law FAQ: Here are some resources for more information: