Plastic Pollution Law in New York:

Plastic Pollution Law in New York:

Written by: Josie Carter on 10/15/2020


It’s Up to You, New York--New York!


New York: Shopping and Take-Out make Plastic Bags Seem ‘Normal’

New Yorkers have options: options to shop, options to eat, options to throw-out due to smaller living areas. In the grand scheme of things, those options only included one type of bag: plastic. 

New Yorkers alone use an average of 23 million plastic bags per year. This equates to a lot of shopping/eating, but also a lot of pollution that inevitably invades the streets, waterways, and oceans. This isn’t just a problem for consumers, but also for retailers/companies who use plastic bagging options for purchases. 

The problem was recognized and New York realized what had to be done.

BYOBNY: Bring Your Own Bag Becomes Law

In March 2020, New York State took action with the ‘Bag Waste Reduction Law’ that would require a statewide ban on single-use plastic bag distribution by all suppliers and company chains in New York. Specifically, companies were expected to stop giving out single-use plastic bags to customers and push the idea for sustainable bags using the popular education campaign #BYOBagNY on social media and posters across the state. 

Excited and shocked, New York residents and workers seemed hesitant as to how this would affect their daily routine. 

While the ban went into effect immediately, it wasn’t considered required and had very soft violation penalties of only $250 for the first issue and $500 for a repeat. Even with the soft penalties, there were still exceptions to the rule like:

  • Raw meats
  • Clothing
  • Recycling/Trash Bags

Seems easy to follow, right? 

There’s been an important update from the NYS Plastic Bag Task Force with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The plastic bag ban, which went into effect on March 1, 2020, was not enforced per an agreement between the parties... As of October 19, 2020, any "person required to collect tax" must not distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt bags as provided for in the Bag Waste Reduction Law.”

That’s right. The DEC decided to make the law strict as to include anyone requiring tax collections from sales. Yes, the exempt bags are still exempt, but this change is viewed as critical in combating plastic pollution in New York.

So, for now, the law affects these in New York:

  • All plastic carryout bags (other than an exempt bags) banned from distribution by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax
    • All cities and counties fall under this restriction
  • Stores covered under the NYS Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling Act are required to collect plastic bags and other film plastics from consumers for recycling. 
    • Film plastics include bread bags and plastic wraps that come over cases of water, paper towels, and other similar items

Even though the Law seems a bit abrupt and harsh towards retailers and consumers, this is a major leap towards ending plastic pollution on a very large scale. While the law focuses on what’s been made illegal, the DEC also recommends exciting alternative options for consumers like using their own sustainable, washable shopping bags.

New York isn’t the only place working on a plastic ban. California became the first state to ban plastic bags in 2016 and Oregon, Hawaii, and cities in New Jersey have quickly followed suits. There are other states that are issuing a charge on plastic grocery bag usage as well as restricting their usage on a company-by-company basis.

To do our part, here at Wiser Water, we also encourage you to join the Wiser journey in ending plastic pollution-- no matter where you live. Check out our reusable, washable, and 100% sustainable shopping bags in our marketplace and start shopping Wiser today!

For more information on New York’s Plastic Bag Ban law, please visit the links below for further reading.

Sources: NYS Plastic Bag Task Force ; NEW YORK STATE PLASTIC BAG TASK FORCE REPORT: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags ; Bag Waste Reduction Law ; Title 28 Bag Waste Reduction ; What to Know About the Plastic Bag Ban ; #byobagny

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