How the bag ban works

Stores will no longer be allowed to distribute plastic bags such as this one on March 1.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The state’s ban on single-use plastic carryout bags takes effect on March 1 and most stores will no longer be allowed to distribute free plastic bags — with some exceptions. 

In the Five Boroughs, businesses will have to instead offer paper bags at a five-cent charge for all customers, except those receiving government assistance for food stamp programs.

Businesses can also sell reusable bags, which the state defines as a having a minimum lifespan of 125 uses, and can carry 22 pounds or more for at least 175 feet.

The city’s Department of Sanitation is giving away free flashy bright orange reusable bags that fold into a pouch and a handy carabiner clip, which you can get delivered to your home by signing their so-called Zero Waste Pledge.

Reporter Kevin Duggan with the free Department of Sanitation reusable bag.Photo by Colin Mixson

These are the businesses that will be affected by the ban:

  • Clothing stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Drug stores
  • Green carts
  • Grocery stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Office supply stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Food service establishments located within the above stores

Exempt are food pantries and soup kitchens, and businesses and customers can still use plastic bags to wrap uncooked animal products, bulk items like fruit, vegetables grains, or candy. Other exemptions include the following uses of plastic bags:

  • To carry food sliced or prepared to order
  • To hold a newspaper for delivery to a subscriber
  • Bulk sales to customers at the point of sale
  • Trash bags
  • Food storage bags
  • Garment bags
  • Prepackaged for sale to a customer
  • For food deliveries
  • to carry drug prescriptions at pharmacies

If businesses don’t comply with the new law, they’ll be subject to a warning for the first offense, followed by a $250 fine for the second violation and $500 for each successive violation in the same calendar year thereafter.