October 23, 2021

Statewide plastic bag ban begins Sunday

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Tops Market cashier Coral Sickmon-Lundberg bags items for a woman checking out. Nearby the store is displaying its reusable bag options. Come Sunday the state’s plastic bag ban will take effect, meaning customers won’t be able to get single-use plastic bags at the checkout line.

Cashier Coral Sickmon-Lundberg was putting a woman’s groceries into single-use plastic bags Tuesday at the Tops Market in Cortlandville when the woman began asking about what options the store would offer once a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect Sunday.

Wednesday was probably the last time this week the woman would be able to get her groceries in plastic bags. Come Sunday, single-use plastic bags will be banned in grocery stores, retail shops and many other places.

“We are well prepared for the plastic bag ban with many reusable bags available for our customers starting at just 99 cents,” said

Tops spokeswoman Kathy Sautter. “We will also have paper bags for just 5 cents with a portion of the proceeds going back to local charities that support our mission.”

Sautter said store greeters will also be educating people on the ban and their options on Sunday.

At Price Chopper on Route 13 in Cortlandville people will also be able to buy reusable bags for as low as 50 cents, said Mona Golub, the vice president of public relations and consumer marketing services for Price Chopper/Market 32.

“We have expanded the variety of reusable bags,” she said, including bags specifically for hot or cold items.

They’ve also made the bags more noticeable, placed near registers, and people can earn them through the stores rewards program as well, Golub said. Paper bags without handles will cost 5 cents, or 15 cents with handles.

Without that fee, the purpose of the law — to reduce the 23 million plastic bags left in New York landfills or littering its country- side each year — would be defeated because paper bags don’t last as long as reusable ones, either.

“I think there is an economical case to made for that as well — 20 to 30 cents a week or you could spend $2 or $3 on a reusable one and not have to contemplate on buying bags for years,” she said.

But it isn’t just big grocery stores that will be affected. Clarks Food Mart in Dryden and Anderson’s Farm Market in Homer have also been talking to their customers about the change.

“Most of them are aware of it, but there’s mixed feelings on it,” said Matt DeHart, the owner of Anderson’s, adding that bulk items, meat and cheese can still be placed into plastic bags.

The store will carry paper bags, a heavier-duty plastic bag that can be used more than once and reusable bags.

However, DeHart said people are being encouraged to bring their own bags.
It’s the same at Clarks. Owner Mike Clark said Tompkins County has implemented a 5-cent fee on paper bags and the store sells reusable bags as well.

“Most of them are understanding and they’re starting to buy the reusable bags,” Clark said.

Eight states have plastic bag bans, according to an analysis done by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, based at University at Albany, which found that “more than 650 municipal- level plastic bag laws have been enacted since the first plastic bag ban in 2007.”

Golub said just like any other change, it will take a little time to get used to.

“Part of that relies on how well we convey the message at the store level-getting,” she said. “We believe that this is a good next step in the way of environmental sustainability within a community.”

How to remember your reusable bag

  • Keep reusable bags in your car.
  • Clip folding reusable bags onto your commuting bag or purse.
  • Leave them next to or hanging on the front door.

Exempt from the ban

  • Bags used solely to contain uncooked meat, fish, seafood, poultry or other unwrapped food, flower or plant item.
  • Bags used by a customer solely to package items from bulk containers, including fruits, vegetables, grains, candy, small hardware, live fish or live insects.
  • Bags used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order.
  • Bags used solely to contain a newspaper for delivery to a subscriber.
  • Trash bags.
  • Food storage bags, such as those in snack, sandwich, quart and gallon sizes.
  • Bags used as a garment bag, such as those used by a dry cleaner or laundry service.
  • Bags provided by a restaurant, tavern, or similar food service establishment, as defined in the state sanitary code, to carry out or deliver food.
  • Bags provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.
  • A reusable bag, as that term is defined in proposed Part 351 draft regulations.
  • A film plastic bag for which there is no reasonable or practical alternative for storing, containing or transporting items, as determined by the department.

Source: NY state Department of Environmental Conservation