FAQ For Retailers


July 15th of 2019.


Retail and grocery establishments will not be able to provide single-use plastic bags to their customers. 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 be able to keep any fee charged for a recyclable bag.


This ban is for single-use plastic “Carryout Bags”. Therefore, the types of plastic that will be prohibited include plastic that is less than 4mils thick.
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. bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.


The Ulster County Bring Your Own Bag Act 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
  • Thrift stores
This term does not include food service establishments located outside of grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores or food marts.


Under the County law, the retailers will keep the fee on paper bags to help offset the increased cost of providing paper bags. Once the New York State law goes into effect on March 1, 2020, the County law will be preempted and the state law will supersede the county law, diverting all the revenue to the state and county


Unfortunately not. The point of having a 5 cent fee for a paper bag, is to add an incentive for customers to bring reusable bags. Otherwise, consumers switch to paper, without any change in behavior. For this Act to be the most effective, people should be using reusable bags, not relying on the bags that the store provides.


Stores should “post signs at / or near the point of sale, to notify customers of the provisions of this law, as well as the per bag charge for Recyclable Paper Bags and Reusable Bags.” The County Department of the Environment plans to post on its website signage that can be downloaded and printed off in the coming weeks. Where possible, we encourage putting awareness signs around your store and near the entry to ensure that people have seen the sign before they get to the counter. This will help to dissuade any ill will.


Yes. The store will need to show the bag fee on the customer’s receipt.


We are collecting information about existing stocks of bags to assist with recycling them properly. Please complete the following form to let us know what you have remaining and we will be in touch:

Retailer Request for Recycling Excess Plastic Bag Inventory

If your business currently has an "at-store" plastic bag and film plastics recycling program, please recycle your excess bags using this existing channel.

If your business has locations outside of Ulster County, you may send your unused inventory to another location for use.


Yes, dry cleaning bags are exempt.


Bags, plastic or paper, used within the store (for example for loose bakery items, meat, deli meats, produce) are not covered by the law.


There are a number of different alternatives to cotton, including hemp, jute, and cotton weave bags. Hemp and jute bags appear to be more expensive than canvas but are less environmentally costly to produce.


Bags, plastic or paper, used within the store (for example for loose bakery items, meat, deli meat, produce) are not covered by the law. Any type of bag is acceptable and you would not need to charge a minimum of five cents for a paper bag provided for any of these purposes.


There is concern that take out food is often too messy for paper bags, and therefore plastic bags provided by food service establishments aren’t covered under this law.


Any type of recyclable or reusable bag provided to the customer, must have a minimum five cent fee. Sales tax is not charged on that bag.


The customer should know that the Bag Act is an Ulster County Law, not a mandate of the business itself. All covered retailers in the County must comply; it isn’t specific to any one store.


Any covered store that provides recyclable or reusable bags to the customer, must have a minimum five cent fee. Sales tax is not charged on that bag. If coffee stores distribute goods in these bags, then they are considered “covered.”


When this legislation was developed, there was consideration given to allowing compostable bags however they were not included as one of the acceptable types of bags. Biodegradable plastic bags are not a permissible bag type under the law. The intent of the law is to change consumer behavior resulting in people remember to bring their own bags. While biodegradable bags are certainly better than petroleum-based plastic, they do not help to change consumer behavior as they are often just a one for one replacement.


Yes, covered stores include farmers markets and farm stands.


Yes. Bags, plastic or paper, used within a store (for example for loose bakery items, meat, deli meats, produce) to carry items to the point of sale are not covered by the law. Any type of bag is acceptable and you would not need to charge a minimum of five cents for a paper bag provided for any of these purposes.


This law regulates Single Use Plastic Carryout Bags. Per the definition in the law, a “Plastic Carryout Bag” does not include 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.

For example loose bakery items which are put into a smaller paper or plastic bag, that bag would not be considered a carryout bag. A plastic bag could be used. And if a paper bag were used, five cents would not have to be charged. Similarly, if a produce items were placed in a bag (like lettuce in a plastic bag without handles, or loose berries or fruit in a paper bag), that bag could be plastic (non-handled) and if it were paper, five cents would not need to be charged.

However, an overall intent of the law is to reduce the amount of plastic in our environment and our community. We encourage customers to bring reusable bags for produce and other goods. And encourage vendors to consider reusable and recycle options for any bag they offer a customer.


If the customer repurposes a box, envelope or other container from your store, the five cent fee does not apply.


The Bring Your Own Bag Act will not be enforced until January 1st, 2020, allowing businesses almost a six (6) month period to get used to this Act. From January 1st, 2020, the county Weights and Measures Bureau will be responsible for enforcement. Penalties range from a warning letter for a first violation to $500 for a third violation. Ulster County will be actively enforcing this single-use plastic bag ban by routinely auditing stores. However, New York State will take over the Acts enforcement in March, 2020.


Ulster County Department of Environment plans make awareness signage available via their website, that store owners can download and print off. These will be effective to display around stores, especially near points of entry and checkouts. Additionally, the Ulster County Government has commissioned an agency to help perform educational outreach – predominantly through digital and social channels. There will be a strong promotional lead up campaign until the 15th, and a reminder campaign until March 2020.


Ulster County businesses registered with the County's Office of Economic Development will be contacted with details prevailing to the law and the changes required. Representatives of the Ulster County Department of Environment are also visiting areas and alerting store owners to the upcoming changes.

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