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Here’s what you need to know about the New York plastic bag ban

Drew Angerer

For New Yorkers who rely on plastic bags when they do their shopping: Get ready to pay a little more than you expected. Businesses across the state are preparing for the plastic bag ban that goes into effect on Sunday. Here’s why it’s happening — and what shoppers should expect.

What’s happening?

In an effort to reduce waste, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last March that bans single-use plastic bags. Most stores and businesses will impose a 5-cent fee on shoppers for paper bags. However, enforcement will not begin until April 1 at the earliest, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.


The law aims to help protect wildlife and the environment in the state where over 23 billion plastic bags are used each year, according to the department.

In a statement released from Cuomo’s office on February 20, he announced a statewide education and outreach campaign called the “BYOBagNY” to help New Yorkers prepare for the change.

“Right this minute, plastic bags are hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, filling up our landfills and polluting our lakes, rivers and streams — all hurting our environment,” said Cuomo. “We took bold action to protect our environment and ban these environmental blights and with this campaign we’re going to make sure New Yorkers are ready and have all the facts.”

How are stores preparing?

Grocery stores, bodegas and other retailersare scrambling to implement the new rule.

Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, told CNN on Friday that there has been a lot of confusion and anxiety about the ban from members.

“The biggest problem right now is the shortage and rising cost of the paper bags that were supposed to be the inexpensive alternative to plastic for consumers who neglect to bring their own reusable bag,” said Calvin.

“Come Sunday, there will be some stores without paper bags. The only choices for a customer who forgot a cloth bag will be to buy a reusable bag on site, which might cost $1 or more, or carry out their purchases in their arms, which makes a convenience store an inconvenience store.”

Which stores are not affected?

While the majority of retailers won’t be able to provide plastic bags come March 1, there are few exemptions. Bags used for uncooked meat, prescription drugs and dry cleaning can still be plastic.

How can shoppers prepare for the ban?

Customers can save money by bringing their own reusable bags on shopping runs.

On Friday afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio distributed reusable bags in Union Square Park in anticipation of the ban.

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