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States with Pending Paper and Plastic Bag Legislation

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

Since 2016, the number of states that have passed bag legislation across the country has approximately doubled. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New York and Puerto Rico have all enacted statewide plastic bans (for the breakdown of what those state laws entail, download the whitepaper).

Now, even more states are considering, and preparing to vote on, bills of their own. If your business could be affected by bans or other regulations on plastic or paper bags, these are the states to watch.


A statewide ban of single-use plastic bags will take effect in July of 2021. In the meantime, retailers, grocery stores and restaurants must collect a fee for single-use plastic checkout bags that have a thickness less than 4.0 mil and the fees must be noted on consumer transaction receipts. No exceptions are made for biodegradable or compostable plastic bags.


Twenty towns and cities in Maine have enacted either a complete ban or/and implemented a fee on plastic shopping bags, with at least six more considering local ordinances of their own. Representative Holly Stover has introduced a bill that, if passed, would prohibit retailers from using single-use bags, with a fee of at least $0.05 on paper bags. 100% recycled paper bags or machine-washable bags could be offered as alternatives. The bill still faces state House and Senate votes.


In January 2019, Massachusetts State Representative Lori Ehrlich introduced her sponsored bill H.771 that would ban plastic bags statewide and require the availability of reusable bags in certain stores. 106 communities across the state already passed and are enforcing local ordinances, and bill H.771 is actually the sixth bill to be introduced that would ban bags at a state level. Ehrlich hopes that this bill will finally gain the traction it needs to pass because of an identical bill introduced in the Senate, S.462 sponsored by state Senator Jamie Eldridge.

New Jersey

In 2018, New Jersey was on the verge of passing a bill that would charge a fee on single-use paper and plastic bags, but it was vetoed by Governor Phil Murphy because “[the bill] does not go far enough to address the problems created by overreliance on plastic bags and other single-use carryout bags.” However, many municipalities have passed their own laws and bans.

The updated bill, S2776, sponsored by state Senators Bob Smith and Linda R. Greenstein, would ban single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and polystyrene food containers as well as place a $0.10 fee on paper bags. State Sen. Smith said he will push to amend the bill to include a full ban on paper bags.

New York

Starting in March 2020, New York will prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and retailers. Prescription bags, certain food service bags and some other bags will be exempt. Retail stores will be required to adopt at-store recycling program and the phrase “Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling” must be printed on all retail plastic bags. Counties and municipalities will have the option of charging a $0.05 fee on paper bags. New York City has opted into this fee, which will also take effect in March 2020.


Lawmakers in 2013 and then again in 2015 and 2017 introduced legislation to ban plastic bags and tax single-use bags, respectively, but none of these efforts made it to a vote. Now the state’s most recent bill, SB 5323, passed the state Senate in March 2019 and is moving on to the House for consideration. Besides banning single-use plastic bags, the bill would require paper bags to contain at least 40% recycled material. Some disposable plastic bags and compostable carryout bags would be exempt, including plastic bags for fruits and vegetables, meats and bulk items.


Michigan is a particular interesting state to watch, first because of their preemption law in 2016 and now because of the possibility of the law’s repeal.

In 2016, the Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley signed a controversial bill prohibiting communities from regulating, prohibiting or adding fees to the use or sale of any reusable or single-use bags, cups, bottles or other store and restaurant packaging. At the time, there was only one Michigan community that had been considering any related legislation: Washtenaw County was months away from enforcing a $0.10 fee on all disposable grocery bags, but the statewide legislation preempted their ordinance.

There has also been an increase in public environmental concerns associated with bags, including contaminating water supplies and harming marine life. As a result, in April 2019 Michigan Representative Robert Wittenberg introduced House Bill 4500, with bipartisan support from co-sponsor Representative Gary Howell. If it passes, it will repeal the law put in place in 2016 and allow communities the option to establish local laws either banning or/and charging fees on bags.

Other Bag Ban Preemption Laws

Like Michigan, six states, including North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia, are considering preempting local governments from placing a ban or fee on bags. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri and Texas all have preemption laws in place but are considering bills to either repeal or modify their laws to allow bans.

Is Your Business Affected by Bag Bans?

Whether you do business in a state or town that has already enacted bag regulations or is considering it, the uncertainty of how to handle compliance can be daunting. Once you understand what your municipal ordinances entail, you will need to take action and ensure that the bags you offer meet legal requirements.

To do this seamlessly, you will need a partner with the flexibility and capabilities to create sustainable paper and plastic products that meet your needs and legal requirements.

Navigate changing paper and plastic bag laws across the country.

Download the Whitepaper

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