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On March 1, 2020, the ban on single-use plastics, including plastic bags, went into effect in the state of New York. The ban was put into effect when the entire state realized how many plastic bags were being wasted every single year. Plus, the environment was being negatively impacted by plastic waste. Bags were seen in gutters, on the sidewalks, in trees, and congested waterways.

Here is everything you need to know about the New York plastic bag ban, including what the exceptions are and how you can make the most out of the #BYOBagNY movement.

What Is The Plastic Bag Ban?

The legislation that started the plastic bag ban was passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Earth Day in 2019. The objective was to cut down on the litter flooding the state as well as protect the natural wildlife from ingesting single-use plastics, reducing greenhouse gases, and limiting plastic bag production and waste.

Another goal of the ban is to encourage people to find alternatives to plastic use and use their own grocery totes and bags. Many businesses and stores are given the option of providing paper bags that will cost consumers 5 cents. However, the enforcement of the paper bag fee will not go into effect until April 1, 2020.

What Kind of Bags Are Banned?

As of March 1, 2020, all plastic bags for carryout, pet waste, and so on are banned from being distributed by anyone who can collect sales tax in New York. The law affects everyone—consumers, sellers, and manufacturers.

Are There Exceptions?

Yes, there are exceptions to the rules. Under the legislation, eleven instances were named where plastic bags can be used:

  • Plastic bags used to wrap uncooked red meat, poultry, and fish
  • Bulk item wrappings
  • Sliced or prepared foods, such as deli meat
  • Prescription drugs
  • Newspaper for delivery

Other exceptions include bags that are sold in bulk, like food storage bags, trash bags, prepackaged bags, and garment bags. Taverns and restaurants can still use prepackaged plastic bags for carryout orders.

How Can Stores Prepare?

As soon as the new legislation was mentioned, stores throughout the state started scrambling to make adjustments. The biggest problem that retailers face at the moment is a shortage of paper bags, which will most likely happen while consumers get used to the switch. Some stores will not have paper bags, and that can be unfortunate for shoppers who have forgotten to bring their reusable bags.

How Can Shoppers Prepare?

Customers are encouraged to purchase their own reusable bags as soon as they can. There are plenty of alternatives available in stores and online. Consumers should also learn about the exceptions to the rule and figure out how the laws will affect them personally. For example, those who use plastic bags for their pets will need to make a switch as soon as possible to face repercussions.

More information about the Bag Waste Reduction Law can be found online. Many retailers are also hanging posters regarded as #BYOBagNY.

What About Paper Bags?

Paper bags are not banned from the state. However, counties and cities within the state have the option to charge a small fee (5 cents) for every paper bag someone uses.

There are two reasons a fee for paper bags may be charged:

  • Encourage the use of reusable bags and totes
  • Local governments can use some of the collected money (2 cents per bag) to start programs for reusable bag distribution

The remaining 3 cents that aren’t used by local governments will be sent to New York’s Environmental Protection Fund.

The only groups who will be exempt from paying the 5 cent fee for paper bags will be those who receive WIC or SNAP benefits.

Are There Environmentally-Friendly Alternatives?

Since many states are now banning single-use plastics, it is time to get on board and find some alternatives. After all, whether you are one of the New Yorkers responsible for using 23 billion plastic bags per year or live outside of NY, we are all responsible for keeping our planet green.

Here are some reusable bag alternatives for you to try:

  • Reusable cotton grocery bags
  • Extra-large silicone storage bags
  • Reusable cotton or jute totes with bottle and jar sleeves
  • Planet-friendly (biodegradable) poop bags for dogs and cats
  • Stretchable silicone lids for microwaveable bowls
  • Muslin produce bags
  • Linen bread bags
  • Bee’s Wrap – reusable alternative to plastic and cling wrap


The Bag Waste Reduction Law, also known as Environmental Conservation Law ECL Article 27, is meant to ban the use of single-use plastic bags and other items within the state of New York. Other states may soon follow suit. Whether you are a consumer or a retailer, it is important to know how the law will affect you and to prepare. Be sure to buy alternatives now, so that the next trip to the convenience store doesn’t become inconvenient.

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