On December 13, 2008, New York Governor David Paterson signed legislation to increase the collection and recycling of plastic carryout bags from large stores and retail or grocery chain stores across the state. Originally passed by the State Legislature in June, the bill was held up by a potential conflict between the state law and a more expansive bag recycling law passed by the City of New York in January.
Beginning on January 1, 2009, many New York State retail stores are now required to recycle plastic carryout bags or face fines from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Stores that “knowingly and intentionally” violate the law will be given a warning for their first violation. A second offense prompts a fine of up to $100. Stores with offenses beyond that will receive fines of up to $500.
The new law applies to stores that have more than 10,000 square feet of space; chains with more than five stores in the state and each having more than 5,000 square feet of space or stores have at least 50,000 square feet of space in a mall.
Those stores must provide bins to collect used plastic bags and then recycle the bags themselves. The stores must also keep records for three years detailing the amount of bags collected and recycled.
With this recycling law in place at the state level, local governments are pre-empted from adopting their own laws on this issue. The state legislation initially threatened to preempt New York City’s law, and would have reduced the number of city stores required to accept bags from consumers for recycling. However, Governor Paterson announced an agreement on legislation that “grandparents” in the city’s plastic bag law, so as to allow it to remain in full force and effect.
In a recent report from the American Chemistry Council, it was found that recycling of plastic bags and wraps increased 24% nationwide in 2006. The recent legislation passed in New York, along with laws passed in California and a number of large cities is expected to increase the amount of plastic bags and wraps diverted from landfills and turned into new consumer products, such as durable decking, fencing, railings, shopping carts, and new bags.