The familiar sight of single-use plastic shopping bags at the checkout line will be coming to an end in many U.S. cities and towns in 2020.
New state and local laws permanently banning plastic bags will attempt to force a habit change among local consumers and retailers. According to Forbes, nearly 350 cities in 25 states now require the use of eco-friendly, reusable cloth and plastic tote bags or old-fashioned paper bags. More municipalities are poised to follow suit in the months ahead.
The urgency is real
Despite their convenience, plastic bags have triggered a significant environmental crisis, impacting neighborhoods, waterways and vital wildlife habitats. Over a trillion plastic bags are used annually worldwide with an estimated 100 million of those being used by U.S. consumers. That equates to about 1,500 bags per family each year, most of which are tossed away after a single use.
Plastic bags can end up in places where they can do significant damage over time, such as storm drains and landfills, eventually making their way to ocean floors where 70% of plastic bags end up according to the Ocean Conservancy.
States and local municipalities are taking bold action
California was the first to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban that went into effect in 2016. Since then, Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, and Maine have followed suit with permanent state-wide bans. The list of states and local municipalities joining the cause will continue to grow in 2020 and beyond. Here are a few that have already started:
- Albuquerque — New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area — rolled out its plastic ban on January 1st as a result of the passage of the state’s Clean and Green Retail Ordinance. The ordinance prohibits retailers from providing customers with single-use plastic bags or foam containers for their purchases and prevents businesses from dispensing single-use straws unless they are paper or biodegradable.
- In Ohio, Cuyahoga County — which encompasses Cleveland — put its single-use plastic bag ban into effect on January 1st. Although Cleveland later opted out of the county’s program, the city plans to join the initiative by July 2020.
- At the end of 2019, the Massachusetts Senate approved a plastic bag ban, and the House is now looking at its own bill.
- New York’s ban will go into effect on March 1, 2020. The law will affect anyone required to collect New York State sales tax, bag manufacturers and consumers. Cities and counties will also be involved.
- In what would be one of the strictest bans in the country, New Jersey lawmakers approved an amended version of a bill that calls for single-use plastic and paper bags to be prohibited one year after the law is signed. Styrofoam cups and food containers would be banned two years after the law goes into effect.
Tracking bag laws in the U.S.
Check out these great resources for tracking plastic ban laws and learning best practices for dealing with the issue from municipalities across the country:
BagLaws.com – a map created by S. Walter Packaging for retailers seeking information about laws detailing the use of paper and plastic bags.
Novolex – a law tracker created by the biggest bag manufacturer in the U.S.
Mass Green Network – compiles resources and best practices drawn from the experience of municipalities in Massachusetts and elsewhere, including a Plastic Bag Legislation page.
Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) – works to protect the environment and public health with the support of members in New York and Connecticut, including a Local Disposable Bag Legislation campaign.
Is your community considering new plastic bag legislation? We can help.
We can take you through all the steps to supplement your Code should your community decide to enact new legislation around plastic bag bans, or update any current laws. Call 800.836.8834 to find out more. Or if you already have legislation to update your Code, send it directly to us at [email protected].
Bag Waste Reduction Law: Information for Consumers, NY Dept of Environmental Conservation
New Year Brings Plastic Bag Bans to States, Cities and Towns Across America Yahoo News January 2, 2020
The Perils of Plastic: Plastic Bags on the Environment Jessica Choi, inEnvironment