Mercedes Rancaño Otero/iStock(NEW YORK) — Plastic shopping bags are going the way of the dodo in New York.

The state’s ban on plastic bags, adopted last year by the Legislature, goes into effect March 1 and will impact things like groceries and department stores. New York joins California, Oregon and several cities including Boston and Seattle in an effort to curb plastic contributions to landfills.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation estimates 23 billion plastic bags are used throughout the state annually, and too many are too often seen floating down city streets.

Here’s a rundown of how the ban will work:

The Rules

All stores and shops in the state will not be allowed to provide customers with a plastic bag at the checkout. Customers will have to use their own bags, such as those made from reusable cotton.

“If you have a small purchase, such as a magazine, candy or drink, you can help our environment by saying, ‘No, thank you,’ to a single-use paper bag and carrying the item instead,” DEC said in a release.

Stores in certain parts of the state, including New York City, instead will offer paper bags for 5 cents each. Proceeds from that fee will go toward state environmental programs. Customers using SNAP and WIC benefits are exempt from paper bag fees.

Stores that violate the ban will receive a warning for their first violation, followed by a $250 fine for the second violation and a $500 fine for each subsequent violation.


The New York regulations still will allow for plastic bags to be used to contain deli meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables from stores.

“These exempt plastic bags could then be placed in reusable bags or paper carryout bags for delivery to the consumer,” DEC said.

Restaurants also can use plastic bags for takeout and delivery items.

Garment bags and newspaper bags also are exempt, as are bags used for nuts, bolts and screws from hardware stores in addition to those used for buying fish or similar aquatic items, according to the DEC.

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