Pack your reusable bags

Warwick. State’s new plastic bag law takes effect March 1 and no plastic is allowed from most retailers.

19 Feb 2020 | 04:20

Beginning Sunday, March 1, The New York State Bag Waste Reduction Law takes effect throughout the state. What that means is 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. There are some bags that are exempt from the law.

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 Town of Warwick, 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 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 and Price Chopper, the two largest retailers in the town, will offer paper bags to shoppers as well as sell reusable shopping bags. Both will still collect plastic bags for recycling.

Price Chopper will provide paper bags to customers for five cents each, according to Mona Golub, vice president of Public Relations and Consumer Services for the company. 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.”

A call to Wakefern, the parent company of ShopRite, was not returned.

Smaller businesses will also be required to comply with the new law. Corrine Iurato, president of the Merchants Guild in Warwick, said she has not heard from any merchants regarding the new law.

“A lot of our businesses use paper anyway. I do,” said Iurato, referring to Peck’s Wine and Spirits. “Any bags I have with handles are reused. I’ve never purchased plastic bags.”

Iurato said she has always kept plastic bags from local food stores in the store just in case people need one. And she encourages people to bring their own bags if they want one with handles, especially now that the supermarkets will not be using plastic.

“We sell six-bottle canvas bags with handles if people need them,” said Iurato. “But I encourage people to bring their own.”

Other businesses that use plastic bags, Iurato said, will have to change.

“They will have to make other choices,” she noted.

Local history

In 2018, the Town of Warwick proposed a five cent charge on all plastic and paper carry-out bags throughout the town. The matter was supported by Sustainable Warwick. It was met with nearly equal amounts of support and opposition. Instead of voting on the measure, the town board opted to put the measure out for a vote by the public. However, the town pulled the referendum when it learned this was not an appropriate referendum to put to voters. The board decided to let the county or state decide the issue.

Supporters of the town’s proposal to add the charge for bags said 11 million plastic bags are used each year in the town, with many ending up as litter in neighborhoods and floating in waterways. Charging for bags at check-out would encourage shoppers to bring and use reusable shopping bags.

This new law would allow cities and counties to adopt a five-center carry-out bag fee for paper bags. The fee will not apply to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) purchases.

The exemptions
This law applies to all businesses that are required to collect New York State sales tax. There are some bags that 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; and
· That are reusable.