What Are Your Rights? New York’s Plastic Bag Ban

Interviewer: With climate change at the forefront of countless political debates and state government continuing to move toward a new level of green awareness, the legislature recently passed a plastic bag ban that will go into effect in less than a month. Here to help examine this new law and explain the coming change to us is managing partner Paul Harding from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti . Paul, welcome back.

Paul: Thank you.

Interviewer: All right. So when exactly does this go into effect?

Paul: March 1st it goes into effect and really applies to anybody who’s collecting sales tax. So if you collect sales tax, you are no longer giving out plastic bags. Couple exceptions where, you know, they’re gonna keep your grapes separated, keep some fruit separated, but pretty much plastic’s gone.

Interviewer: All right, so will grocery stores provide bags for consumers, and will paper bags be an alternative?

Paul: So the days of paper or plastic, you know, those words are not gonna be spoken together, at least in New York State ever again. The county has to opt-in to allow paper bags. So I find that super unique. People thought well, we’re gonna just go to paper. Well, Albany County did opt-in. It’s five cents per bag. Or of course, you can make what other arrangement you want to bring your groceries home.

Interviewer: All right, so kind of staying on the paper bag topic here. You mentioned the fees. So for those counties that charge, how’s that going to go back to the retailers or will it go back to the retailers?

Paul: Yeah, so the retailer’s collect the five cents per bag, they got to give the whole thing to the DEC fund to help with environmental cleanup, but they’ll be selling their own bags, right, and I looked at…I took a quick look today. They’re between two and three dollars a bag if you wanna buy one, and the problem is you got to have it with you, right?

Interviewer: Right.

Paul: So let’s say you’re having a big shopping day, need two, or three, or four bags, you bring them home, they stay in the garage, you drive back to the store. Two days later, you’re buying more bags, so I think there’s gonna be a… There’s some profit tied into that for sure. But they’re not gonna be making any money on the brown bags.

Interviewer: All right, what’s recommended for consumers who don’t necessarily live in a county with that alternative?

Paul: You know, you can bring a duffel bag, you can buy it, you can do anything you want, but you may have to make your own arrangements, or as I said, you’re gonna be buying two or three dollar bags consistently.

Interviewer: All right, a good reminder for all of us, or folks at home, to just remember to grab those reusable bags. Get them out of the closet, the cabinets, and stick them in your trunk for now. Of course for more information on this topic, you can head to our website cbs6albany.com.