New York Plastic Bag Ban: Here’s what you need to know

In an effort to reduce waste, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last March that bans single-use plastic bags in New York. Starting on March 1, 2020, most stores and businesses will impose a 5-cent fee on shoppers for paper bags.

The law aims to help protect wildlife and the environment in the state where over 23 billion plastic bags are used by New Yorkers each year, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

In a statement released from Cuomo’s office on February 20th, he announced a statewide education and outreach campaign called the “BYOBagNY” to help New Yorkers prepare for the change.

“Right this minute, plastic bags are hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, filling up our landfills and polluting our lakes, rivers and streams — all hurting our environment,” said Cuomo in the same statement. “We took bold action to protect our environment and ban these environmental blights and with this campaign we’re going to make sure New Yorkers are ready and have all the facts.”

How are stores preparing?

Many grocery stores, bodegas and other retailers in New York are scrambling to implement the new rule on March 1st.

Jim Calvin, president of the NY Association of Convenience Stores, told CNN Friday that there has been a lot of confusion and anxiety about the ban from their members.

“The biggest problem right now is the shortage and rising cost of the paper bags that were supposed to be the inexpensive alternative to plastic for consumers who neglect to bring their own reusable bag,” said Calvin. “Come Sunday, there will be some stores without paper bags. The only choices for a customer who forgot a cloth bag will be to buy a reusable bag on site, which might cost $1 or more, or carry out their purchases in their arms, which makes a convenience store an inconvenience store.”

Which stores are not affected?

While the majority of retailers won’t be able to provide plastic bags come March 1, there are few exemptions. Bags used for uncooked meat, prescription drugs and dry cleaning can still be plastic.

How can shoppers prepare for the ban?

Customers can save money by bringing their own reusable bags on shopping runs. On Friday afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was expected to distribute reusable bags in the city’s Union Square Park in anticipation of the ban.