Time to dig out those reusable bags, because after months of legal wrangling, today the ban on single-use plastic shopping bags comes into force across New York State.
It was way back on March 1 that the Bag Waste Reduction Law took effect – part of eco-friendly plans to cut the number of bags used across New York State, which currently stands at a jaw-dropping 23 billion each year.
Initially, businesses were given a month’s grace to comply. Then court cases and COVID kicked in – but finally, in August, State Supreme Court Justice Gerald W. Connolly ruled that the law could proceed, adding a further two-month grace period.
Shoppers are encouraged to bring in their own carryout bags to pack groceries and other items. Stores can sell brown bags at five cents each, though families relying on food stamps, or the Women, Infants, and Children food program, are exempt from paying the fee. Stores can also sell reusable bags at a higher price, but retailers violating the bag ban will initially face a warning, a $250 fine on the second offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses in the same calendar year.
Plastic bags can still be used for prescription drugs, newspapers for subscribers, take-out meals, sliced food, and dry cleaning.
Revenue from the paper bag fee will be split between the state’s Environmental Protection fund and a city initiative providing free reusable bags to New Yorkers.