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New York’s Bag Ban: Here’s What It Means For Your Business (Q&A)

by Broadway Industries | Posted in: Food Service Packing Supplies Pharmacy Textiles

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags into law, citing environmental concerns and the general impact of litter on New York communities. The state uses an estimated 23 billion plastic bags every year, with approximately half of them ending up in landfills and waterways.

Once the ban goes into effect in March of 2020, both consumers and businesses will come face-to-face with major changes. For businesses, this can mean costly adjustments and confusion as they struggle to understand the new law and what it means to be compliant.

What kinds of bags will be banned?

As soon as the ban takes effect, it will apply to all single-use plastic bags provided to consumers at grocery stores and retailers. Reusable bags made of cloth or other durable materials are not affected by the ban.

Paper bags may be offered with or without a consumer fee, and there are exceptions for some plastic bags.

When will the ban go into effect?

There are already ten municipalities that have banned plastic bags, but the statewide ban will go into effect on March 1, 2020.

What kinds of businesses will be affected by the bag ban?

Any store that is required to collect sales tax, including small businesses, retail stores and grocery stores across New York State will be affected by this ban.

Will there be a fee on paper bags?

Counties and cities have the option to charge a $0.05 fee on paper bags, and they will be able to decide on their own whether or not they will. It will not be up to the retailers themselves within those cities and counties. New York City has already opted into this fee, which will take effect in March 2020.

Counties or municipalities will be allowed to keep 2 cents for each bag, with the remaining 3 cents going toward New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund and a separate fund to buy and distribute reusable bags to consumers.

Many environmental groups and Democratic state leaders argue in favor of charging consumers for paper bags, stating that it will cut down on additional waste and encourage the use of reusable bags.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, there are exceptions for some plastic bags. Under this new regulation, stores will be allowed to provide or offer plastic bags for these specific instances:

  • Pharmacy bags, such as those used for prescription drugs
  • Food service bags, including deli meat bags, prepared food bags or bags for uncooked meat, poultry or fish
  • Restaurant takeout bags
  • Garment bags
  • Plastic sleeves for newspaper deliveries
  • Bulk items, including bags sold in bulk for food storage, garbage or other waste

How much will this cost my business?

This will depend on how many plastic bags your business goes through in a year, what you currently pay for those bags and what type of bags you choose to offer as an alternative. Read more about other costs facing businesses affected by bag bans.

The Food Industry Alliance of New York State president and CEO has stated that the ban will “have a drastic impact on retailers” as it “will impose significant new and unplanned costs on retail food stores.” The American Progressive Bag Alliance has criticized the ban as well, arguing that when businesses are faced with higher costs for materials, they will be forced to pass them along to consumers.

Prominent New York grocery store Wegmans has also voiced opposition to the ban, stating that they already use plastic bags made from 40% recycled plastic and encourage consumers to return bags to stores to be recycled, which is more environmentally friendly than offering bags that take more energy to produce or are made of materials that cannot be recycled at all.

What is the next step?

Businesses that operate in New York State now have several decisions to make regarding how they will prepare for the ban prior to it taking effect in 2020.

Broadway Industries is a family-owned manufacturer and distributor of paper and plastic packaging products. We frequently work with businesses that need to navigate the changing regulatory environment. We help by providing sustainable and compliant options that work for businesses and their consumers, including Re-Use-A-Bag® plastic t-sacks, recycled content paper bags, non-woven bags and other custom solutions.

Get more information about bag bans and what businesses can do to remain compliant.

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