FAQ For Consumers

July 15th of 2019. 

Retail and grocery establishments will not be able to provide single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers at the point of sale. In addition, they will be required to charge at least five cents for a recyclable paper bag. Under the Ulster County law, the retailers will keep any fee charged for a recyclable bag. 

This ban is for single-use plastic carryout bags. This means a single use plastic bag, that is less than 4 mils thick that is provided by a store (as covered in this legislation) to a customer at the point of sale and is used to carry the goods from such store.  
A Plastic Carryout Bag does not include:

  1. A bag without handles used to carry produce, meats, dry goods or other non-prepackaged food items to the point of sale within a store or market or to prevent such food items from coming into direct contact with other purchased items; 
  2. A garment bag or large plastic bag with two openings that is used to transport clothing from a clothing retailer or garment cleaner such as a dry cleaner;
  3. A bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.

A reusable bag refers to a bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse that is provided by a Covered Store to its Customer at the point of sale and is capable of carrying twenty-two (22) pounds over a distance of one hundred and seventy five feet (175) for a minimum of one hundred and twenty five (125) uses and is either: (a) made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; or (b) made of durable plastic that is at least 4 mils thick.

A recyclable paper bag refers to a paper bag that contains no old growth fiber; is 100% recyclable overall and contains a minimum of 40% post consumer recycled content; and displays the word “Recyclable” on the outside of the bag. 

Yes, retailers can supply reusable plastic bags for a fee, assuming they comply with the Ulster County standards for reusable bags (see above).  It is likely that this fee will be higher than the minimum 5 cents, but the bag supplied will be able to be reused multiple times. However, you should not expect all stores to carry such bags. Retailers that provide reusable plastic bags are doing it on an entirely optional basis. 

No. The Ulster County Bring Your Own Bag Act only applies to establishments engaged in the retail sale of personal, consumer or household items including but not limited to:

  • Drug stores/pharmacies
  • Grocery stores/supermarkets
  • Convenience stores/foodmarts
  • Apparel stores
  • Home centers and hardware stores
  • Stationery and office supply stores
  • Farmers markets
  • Open-air flea markets
  • Liquor stores
  • Gift shops
This term does not include food service establishments located outside of grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores or food marts.

People who receive SNAP or WIC benefits will be exempt from the minimum 5 cent fee for recycled paper bags. This is consistent with the New York State law which will go into effect March 1, 2020.

The law states that stores covered by the BYO Bag Act shall provide recyclable paper bags, without charge, when a person is using SNAP or WIC for full or partial payment. If you are not using benefits as full or partial payment, you must be charged for recyclable or reusable bags.

The charge on paper bags is what ensures people will actually bring a reusable bag. Studies show that without a charge, people are more likely to go from being dependent on plastic bags to dependent on paper bags. Which, while better, is not the goal of this act and still adds to pollution. 

We’ve had the option to recycle these plastic bags for some time, but it’s not working. It is generally recognized that less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled, in part, due to the fact that it costs more to recycle a bag than to produce a new one. Discontinuing these single-use plastic bags will much more effective for the environment and human health in the long run. 

The environmental footprint of bags are all different, and depending on how much you use them, how heavy your products are, and how much you want to hold in each bag, everyone will have a different reusable bag for them. Below are the most common types of reusable bags, and how many times you have to use them to cancel out the environmental cost they take to make.

  • Cotton tote bag – 173 times
  • Typical fold up reusable bag - non-woven polypropylene (PP) – 14 times
  • Paper bag – 4 times

  • Paper bags can be recycled as part of any municipal recycling effort in Ulster County. They can also be repurposed after you have used them to transport your shopping home. You can use them for bagging lunches; making arts and crafts; or collecting compost, trash or recyclables.
    If you’re looking to dispose your paper bags. Don’t just throw it in the garbage.  Paper bags are better than their plastic counterparts, they are compostable. If you have access to composting, just tear it up and toss it in. Alternatively, use these paper bags as a means for holding your recycling until you make the trip to the recycling bin. 

    Our BYO Bag campaign is all about helping people develop new habits around remembering your bag. One of the reasons we distribute stickers with “BYOBag” on them is that the more you see the message, the more likely it is that you will remember to do it. Using the stickers in this way can be a helpful method, as well as simply leaving a whole bunch of bags in the car so you will always have one when you get to the store! The more times you return the bag to your car the more habitual the behavior will become. 

    Any type of bag that the customer brings to the store is allowable under the law. And yes you could bring back the bags they previously provided and use them.

    Plastic bags will still be plentiful enough that those of us who reuse the plastic bags will find other types to use for garbage can liners.  Also, stores will still be able to provide plastic bags for produce and meat in the store. There are a few other popular solutions: You could simply go without a liner, for example, and wash bins when needed. Another option is to reuse plastic packaging from other goods such as the large wrap around paper towels. Be creative!

    Over 240 countries and cities have enacted a plastic bag ban, and many more have enacted a tax to similar degrees of success. 
    U.S. States that currently have a Plastic Bag Ban:

    • California
    • Hawaii
    • New York (2020) 
    Countries that currently have a Plastic Bag Ban:
    • Bangladesh
    • Benin
    • Burundi
    • Cameroon
    • China
    • Cote de l’voire
    • Eritrea
    • France
    • French Guyana
    • Gabon
    • India
    • Italy
    • Kenya
    • Macedonia
    • Madagascar
    • Malawi
    • Mali
    • Mauritania
    • Moldova
    • Morocco
    • Myanmar
    • Nepal
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Republic of the Congo
    • Rwanda
    • Senegal
    • Sri Lanka
    • Taiwan
    • Tanzina
    • Tunisia
    • Uganda  

    For additional detail, the full text of the law can be found here.