Pack your reusable bags

Chester. New York State’s new plastic bag law takes effect Sunday, March 1. Most retailers will be prohibited from using them, although they agree that reducing waste with reusable bags is a good idea.

26 Feb 2020 | 01:12

Beginning Sunday, March 1, the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Law takes effect. That means retailers across the state will no longer provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to its customers, with some exceptions.

This law applies to all businesses that are required to collect New York State sales tax. However, some bags are exempt from the law, such as those used for unwrapped foods (see sidebar for full list)

Businesses that do not follow this new law will receive a warning on the first violation. A $250 fine will be levied on a second violation, then $500 fines for each subsequent violation in the same calendar year.

What types of bags can you use?

The Department of Environmental Conservation recommends that consumers use reusable bags whenever they shop, whether it be at a grocery store, department store or home improvement store. Throughout the area, there are signs reminding customers to “BYOB" -- "Bring Your Own Bag,” with an emphasis on more environmentally friendly bags that are washable and reusable. Shoppers can actually bring any type of bag they choose, including the now-banned plastic bags. They will just not be made available by the store.

Stores are not required to have bags available for customers but many will have reusable bags for purchase. Some may provide paper bags.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommends that residents keep reusable bags in their car and near their doors at home so to not forget them.

Businesses weigh in

ShopRite, which has stores in Chester, Warwick, and Monroe, will offer paper bags to shoppers and will sell reusable shopping bags. Consumers will pay a price – most reusable bags cost $1 but can be reused hundreds of times. Paper bags will cost five cents each.

“ShopRite is concerned about the environmental impact of both plastic and paper bags, which is why we firmly believe that reusable bags are the best choice,” said a corporate ShopRite spokeswoman. “We are encouraging all our customers to ‘be the change’ and bring their own bags to shop, and our stores in New York are reminding customers about the importance of reusable bags with special signs that remind people to ‘Plan for the Ban’ and ‘BYO Bags.'"

Steve Smith, owner of Just a Buck in the Chester Mall on Brookside Avenue, said customers will have to bring their own reusable bags starting Sunday. The store will not provide paper bags but will sell reusable ones.

The new law won't affect Linda Mabie, owner of Linda's Office Supply in Goshen. She has always used paper bags.

"I am fully in favor of this," she said of the new law.

She will help prepare people for the new regulation by selling reusable bags at her store.

"I have bags with beautiful designs," said Mabie. "One line is made of recycled soda bottles."

Price Chopper, which has stores in both Warwick and Middletown, will also provide paper bags to customers for five cents each, according to Mona Golub, vice president of Public Relations and Consumer Services for the company. However, Golub said that paper bags are environmentally no better than the thin sheet plastic and four times as costly to the company to buy.

“Our aim is to discourage reliability on single-use bags of any kind,” said Golub. “We are encouraging our customers to use reusable bags.”

The company has advocated the use of reusable bags for some time and continues to make them available to customers for discounted prices.

“We have heavy-duty reusable bags available in stores for 50 cents,” said Golub, noting that this promotion has been offered since the fall and has been quite successful. In addition, there is a four-sided rack in every store with various size reusable bags, hot and cold bags and canvas bags, also for discounted prices.

“Once the plastic bags are gone, customers can spend money each time they shop on paper bags that will last a few shopping trips or buy the heavy duty reusable bags that will last for hundreds of trips,” said Golub. “This is a big change and a good place to start.”

This law applies to all businesses that are required to collect New York State sales tax. However, some bags are exempt from the law, including bags:
Used to wrap uncooked meat, fish, seafood, poultry, or other unwrapped food
Used to package items from bulk containers, including fruits, vegetables, grains, candy, small hardware items
Used to contain food sliced or prepared to order
Used for newspaper delivery
Sold in bulk quantities that were specifically prepackaged in a manner to allow for bulk
Sold as a trash bag
Sold as a food storage bag, such as sandwich bags
Used as a garment bag, such as those used by a dry cleaner or laundry service
Provided by a restaurant to carry out or deliver food
Provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs
That are reusable