Starting March 1, you'll no longer be able to leave a store with plastic bags in hand.
A statewide ban that Governor Andrew Cuomo approved last year is finally going into effect, forbidding all stores to give out single-use plastic bags—your run-of-the-mill take out bags, for instance—because they are not biodegradable and have been found as the cause to wildlife deaths and major pollution around the world, including sad New York City trees that have become plastic bag traps.
Instead, customers are expected to bring their own reusable bags. If they don’t, they’ll be forced to pay a 5-cent fee for each provided paper bag. (Thankfully, this fee doesn’t apply to customers using SNAP or WIC.) Only four counties opted into the fee—NYC, Albany, Tompkins, Suffolk and Ulster.
Some stores won’t have paper bags to purchase and may only sell reusable ones, especially since there are not enough paper bags to go around thanks to a nationwide shortfall, according to The New York Post.
And if you’re not sure your bag is reusable, the State DEC has defined “reusable” as a bag that is hand or machine washable, holds at least 22 pounds for the duration of its lifespan, can be used a minimum 125 times and has at least one strap.
The ban does have some exemptions, however.
Plastic bags used to contain meat or other unwrapped food like deli goods, bulk items, newspapers, trash and garment bags, and prescription medicine bags among others are still allowed.
If you still have specific questions about what’s allowed, the DEC’s website outlines it all.