FACT SHEET: Plastic Bags Outlawed in NYC starting March 1, 2020 (upd. 3/3/20)
(some sections below provided courtesy of the Jerome Gun Hill BID)
If you have further questions about your business’s bag use, please contact NYS Dept. of Environmental
Conservation at 518-402-8706 or Lauren at the BID at 718-282-2500, x66351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The NYS Bag Waste Reduction Act prohibits the distribution of plastic carryout bags by retailers in NYS.
Q: Which retailers are no longer allowed to provide plastic bags?
A: Any person required to collect NYS Sales tax will no longer be able to provide plastic carryout bags.
Stores that are covered by the bag waste reduction law include, but are not limited to: clothing stores,
convenience stores, drug stores and pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores, liquor stores, office
supply store, restaurants/food service establishments located within the above stores. The paper
carryout bag fee does not apply to food pantries or soup kitchens.
Q: What does the term “plastic carryout bag” mean? Does this include all plastic bags?
A: “Plastic carryout bag” means any film plastic bag, other than an exempt bag (see list below), that is
provided to a customer by a person required to collect tax to be used by the customer to carry tangible
personal property, regardless of whether such person to collect sales tax sells any tangible personal
property or service to the customer, and regardless of whether any tangible personal property or service
sold is exempt from tax under Article 28 of the NYS Tax Law.
Are there any exceptions?
The following plastic bags may still be distributed if they are:
Bags used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish or poultry;
Bags used by a consumer solely to package bulk items such as fruits, vegetables, grains or candy;
Bags used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order;
Bags used solely to contain a newspaper for delivery to a subscriber;
Bags sold in bulk to a consumer at the point of sale;
Food storage bags;
Garment bags used by dry cleaners and laundry services;
Bags prepackaged for sale to a customer;
Plastic carryout bags provided by a restaurant, tavern, or similar food service establishment, as defined
in the state sanitary code, to carry out or deliver food; or
Bags provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs
Reusable bags (must meet all of the three categories below)
- Must be made either of cloth or other machine-washable fabric or other non-film plastic
washable material, and
- Has at least one strap or handle that doesn’t stretch and is attached to the bag in such a
manner that it allows the bag to have a lifespan of at least 125 uses with the ability to carry
at least 22 pounds over a distance of 175 feet, and
- Has a fabric weight of at least 10 milliliters thick or equivalent for bags made of non-film
Q: What about paper bags?
A: New York City will enact a five-cent fee on paper carryout bags, which will also take effect on 3/1/20.
This fee must be stated clearly on customer receipts and is due quarterly to the NYS Dept. of Taxation and
Finance. The fee does not apply to exempt bags or customers using SNAP or WIC. Go here for details on the
paper bag fee: https://www.tax.ny.gov/bus/st/paper-carryout-bag-fee.htm.
Q: Will there be a grace period?
A: Yes. the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation agreed to not take any enforcement action until
4/1/20. We’ve been told by the DEC that the first violation is a warning with, if there isn’t compliance,
followed by a first fine of $250 and a second within the same calendar year of $500. This is for your general
information but please note that this could change.
Q: Are stores required to offer reusable bags for purchase or at no charge?
A: Only certain larger and chain stores are required to offer reusable bags. “Store” is defined as a retail
establishment that has over 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space or is part of a chain engaged in the same general
field of business which operates five or more units of over 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space under common
ownership and management. In other words, a small convenience store (less than 10,000 sq. ft. or not part of a
chain with 5 or more units over 5,000 sq. ft. in size) would not be required to make reusable bags available.
Questions from other BID members
Q: I have a grocery store and we sell sliced meat, packaged goods, and refrigerated items. If a customer
buys sliced meat, a box of cookies, and a carton of milk, can’t we put the entire thing in a plastic bag since
sliced meat is one of the exempt items?
A: No. The sliced meat is exempt and can go in its own plastic deli bag but if the customer doesn’t bring
their own bag, the total items can only go in a paper bag.
Q: Does the five-cent paper bag fee apply to the paper bags my pharmacy uses to carry prescription drugs?
A: No, the five-cent paper bag fee only applies to paper bags being used as an alternative to the banned
film plastic bags.
Q: My clothing store uses plastic bags with reinforced handles. They are stronger than the typical plastic
carryout bag. Can we still use these?
A: Unless the bag meets all three criteria under the “Reusable Bags” bullet point above, they can’t be used