Plastic Bag And Film Plastics Recycling For Retailers
New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act
New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act (Act) has been in effect since January 1, 2009. Amendments to the Act include film plastics, defined as "uncontaminated non-rigid film plastic packaging products composed of plastic resins, which include, but are not limited to, newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags and shrink-wrap," went into effect on March 1, 2015.
A "store" is a retail establishment that currently provides, or at any time prior to March 1, 2020 provided, plastic carryout bags to its customers as a result of the sale of a product, and has over 10,000 square feet of retail space or is part of a chain operating 5 or more units with over 5,000 square feet of retail space in New York.
Retail Stores Affected
Stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and retail chains operating five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide, or at any time prior to March 1, 2020 provided, plastic carry out bags to customers, as a result of the sale of a product, are required to comply with the law.
The owner of an enclosed shopping mall is required to place recycling bins at reasonable intervals throughout the mall. Large mall stores (50,000 square feet or more of retail space) are required to establish their own plastic carry out bag and film plastics recycling programs.
The law and the corresponding Part 351 regulations, required stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and retail chains operating five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provided plastic carryout bags to its customers as a result of a product sale, to:
- Establish an at-store film plastic recycling program. Stores must make collection bins for plastic bag and other film plastic recycling available to customers in a visible, easily accessible location. Collection bins must be clearly marked that they are for the purpose of collecting and recycling plastic carryout bags and film plastics. NOTE: There are slightly different requirements pertaining to enclosed malls which differ from free-standing stores and strip malls.
- Ensure that collected plastic bags and other film plastics are actually recycled. Stores are required to recycle the film plastic collected and are prohibited from disposing of the collected film plastics as solid waste.
- Label all plastic bags. Any bags distributed in affected stores must state "Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling" or a similar message approved by the DEC. The message required pursuant to New York City Local Law 1 of 2008 ("Please reuse or recycle at a participating store") related to plastic carryout bag recycling is an acceptable message stores may use without seeking specific approval from DEC. A store must apply to the Department for approval of any other alternative plastic bag recycling message.
- Keep records on their program. Stores, or their agents, are required to maintain records describing the collection, transport and recycling of film plastics for at least three years. The records must include the weight of film plastics collected and their ultimate disposition (e.g., where they were recycled).
- Sell reusable bags. Stores are required to allow the use of reusable shopping bags and make them available to their customers for purchase. Reusable bags should meet the definition of reusable bag.
Labeling of Plastic Bags
While the Bag Waste Reduction Act prohibits most stores from providing plastic carryout bags to consumers, there are a few specific instances where providing plastic carryout bags is still allowed. All plastic carryout bags given to consumers must state: "PLEASE RETURN TO A PARTICIPATING STORE FOR RECYCLING." Also acceptable is "PLEASE REUSE OR RECYCLE AT A PARTICIPATING STORE." In order to be adequately visible to a consumer, the statement should be located on the outside face of the bag and the lettering should be at least one-half inch in height.
Stores may apply to the Commissioner of DEC for an alternate recycling message using one of the following methods:
In writing to:
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Materials Management
Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling
625 Broadway Albany, New York 12233-7253
By email to: [email protected]
By fax to: (518) 402-9024
Biodegradable, Compostable Bags
Compostable bags cannot be recycled in film plastics recycling bins or household recycling bins. They must be labeled "COMPOSTABLE BAG - DO NOT PLACE IN RECYCLING BIN"
How To Set Up A Film Plastic Recycling Program
- Place recycling bins near the front of the store. We highly recommend bin(s) be large enough to hold 15 gallons or more.
- Collection bins should be clearly marked indicating they are for the purpose of collecting and recycling plastic carryout bags and film plastics. Signage on or near the film plastic recycling bin helps to deter consumers from putting trash in the bin. You can get free, downloadable signage (Link leaves DEC's website) for your store's film plastic bins.
- We recommend posting a sign indicating the film plastic recycling bin location if it isn't near the store entrance.
- Locate garbage cans in convenient locations for consumers to place their trash, so waste does not end up in the film plastic recycling bins.
- Avoid film plastic recycling bins that resemble garbage cans.
- Use transparent bins and transparent bags to enable better quality control.
- In addition to posters at entrances and on or near film plastic recycling bins, simple decals near bag stands and buttons on cashiers and baggers serve to inform customers that film plastics are recyclable at your store. Also consider a decal with recycling facts at the cashier stand.
- Train employees to ensure the success of at-store film plastic recycling programs. Make sure employees are aware of the film plastic recycling protocol. Have them point out the availability of store film plastic recycling bins.
Key provisions of this law are available in a free downloadable and printable flyer Recycling Film Plastic Retailers (PDF) 107kb
The law provides that upon the first finding of a violation, a store will be issued a warning without penalty. The penalty for a second violation is $100 and the penalty for a third or subsequent violation is $500.
Finding a Recycler
Please contact NYSDEC at [email protected] or 518-402-8706 for assistance with your film plastic recycling program.
The store will need to maintain records for a minimum of three years describing the collection, transportation, and recycling of plastic bags and other film plastics collected by weight. These records shall be made available to the DEC upon request.