Bag Ban Will Reduce Litter, Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Protect Environment for Future Generations
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced the release of final regulations to implement the New York State Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act, which goes into effect on March 1, 2020. After a thorough review of the approximately 2,500 comments received from stakeholders and communities during the 60-day public comment period and hearing, these final regulations will be published in the State Register on Feb. 26, 2020. Prior to finalizing the regulations, which were released on Nov. 27, 2019, DEC updated the proposal based on the comments received to include minor refinements in keeping with the overriding objective of the Act to reduce plastic bag waste.
DEC will continue to focus its outreach and education efforts to ensure a smooth transition for consumers and affected retailers, with enforcement to follow in the months ahead. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to ban the sale of single-use plastic bags in New York State on Earth Day, April 23, 2019.
Commissioner Seggos said, "New York continues to be a national leader on environmental issues, and the plastic bag ban is the latest in a series of actions Governor Cuomo has directed to preserve our air, land, and waters for future generations. DEC is proud to be at the forefront of these efforts and will continue to work to develop solutions to combat climate change and protect the environment and we continue to encourage New Yorkers to BYOBagNY and bring their own reusable bags wherever and whenever they shop."
Refinements to the proposed regulations include:
- Edits to the definition of "exempt" and "reusable" bags. Specifically, paragraph (12), in § 351-1.2(f), allowing "a film plastic bag for which there is no reasonable or practical alternative for storing, containing or transporting items, as determined by the department" was deleted;
- Further clarification and examples added to the types of exempt bags described in paragraphs (1), (2), (8), and (9) of the definition of "exempt bag;"
- The definition of "reusable bag" in § 351-1.2(n), was edited so allowable material types are listed first and clarify that reusable bags must be made of cloth or other machine-washable fabric or a non-film plastic washable material; and
- Redundancy in the strength and durability standards was deleted and the requirement for handles to be separately attached was removed.
DEC is undertaking a statewide public awareness campaign-BYOBagNY-to educate consumers and affected businesses about the law. As part of this effort, DEC is distributing more than 270,000 reusable bags with a focus on low- and moderate-income income communities. DEC's BYOBagNY campaign includes TV and radio placements, ads on YouTube targeting New Yorkers, boosted social media placements, a Google ad campaign, video promotions at Thruway rest stops, and more that will continue over the next few months. In addition, DEC regularly communicates with key stakeholders and industry associations; presented an overview of the ban and fee to the New York State Association of Counties; provided regional offices with BYOBagNY educational materials for use as outreach at public events; and is working with Department of Taxation and Finance to coordinate cross-agency efforts related to clear communication of the law entities required to collect state sales tax. DEC is currently distributing hundreds of thousands of reusable bags across the state with the help of partner state agencies and Feeding New York State, the statewide food bank organization.
New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually-each for about 12 minutes-and approximately 85 percent of this staggering total ends up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways, and streets. In March 2017, Governor Cuomo created the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force, chaired by DEC Commissioner Seggos. The task force met several times to develop a uniform, comprehensive and equitable solution to the challenge of plastic bag waste. The final report analyzed the impacts of single-use plastic bags and provided options for legislation that could help develop a statewide solution. In addition, following passage of the New York State Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act, DEC held a series of meetings with industry stakeholders across the state to invite input from the public and guide the agency's development of rules and regulations to implement the law.