>New York State’s Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act

Effective January 1, 2009, a new statewide law requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a plastic carry out bag recycling program for their customers.

Stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry out bags to customers, are required to comply with the law.

Why Recycle Plastic Bags?

Each year, Americans throw away more than 100 billion plastic bags. Less than 1% are recycled. Recycling these bags reduces waste and litter, resulting in cleaner streets and waterways and less material in landfills. Recycling also protects wildlife because plastic bags can be dangerous to animals that ingest them or are strangled by them. In addition, using recycled plastic bags in place of virgin plastics reduces our demand for oil. Recycled plastic bags provide valuable material to manufacturers of plastic lumber, plastic bags and other useful products.

Avoiding the Use of Plastic Bags Helps Even More

Instead of using a plastic bag, you can:

Use canvas, cloth or a durable plastic bag.

Reusable bags are more environmentally friendly than paper or plastic. Under the law, any store required to recycle plastic bags must also sell reusable bags. Keep them in your car for the next time you have to run out for groceries.

Say “No thank you.”

Not all items require a bag so tell the clerk, “No thank you.” Carry small purchase items, like a magazine, candy, or a drink, to the car instead of in a plastic bag.

Tell a friend.

Get others to recycle and use reusable bags.

What are Stores Required to Do?

  • Establish an “at-store” plastic bag recycling program. Stores must make collection bins for plastic bag recycling available to customers in a visible, easily accessible location. There are slightly different requirements for enclosed malls (see the law for details).
  • Ensure that collected plastic bags are actually recycled. Stores are required to recycle the plastic bags collected and are prohibited from disposing of the collected plastics as solid waste.
  • Label all plastic bags. Any bags distributed in affected stores must state Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling or a similar message approved by the DEC. The message required pursuant to New York City Local Law 1 of 2008, Please reuse or recycle at a participating store, is acceptable. (Note: If you use biodegradable compostable bags, they must be labeled Compostable bag–Do not place in recycling bin)
  • Keep records. Stores are required to maintain records describing the collection, transport and recycling of plastic bags for at least three years. The records must include the weight of plastics collected and where they were recycled.
  • Sell reusable bags. Stores are required to offer reusable bags to their customers for purchase and allow the use of reusable shopping bags. (Note: A reusable bag is made of cloth or other machine washable fabric that has handles or is a durable plastic bag with handles made for multiple use).

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