Sweet Spot With Mike Sugerman: Getting Ready For NY's Plastic Bag Ban

Big changes are coming to New York state grocery stores. Starting Sunday, March 1, single-use plastic bags will be banned, with limited exemptions. The New York City Sanitation Department has been handing out reusable bags in preparation for the ban and shoppers will be able to buy paper bags for a five cent fee. So what does that mean for professional dog walkers who have to deal with pet waste? And walk about the studies that say paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic? Mike Sugerman asks these questions and more in this week's Sweet Spot.

Here’s what to know about New York’s plastic bag ban:


New York officials say the state uses more than 23 billion plastic bags each year. Supporters of the new ban, passed last March, hope to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in the environment, which they say are polluting waterways and harming wildlife. Here’s more info about the law, as well as the full text of the law.


The ban applies to the plastic bags found everywhere from supermarkets to bodegas and specialty stores. Any store that collects a sales tax is required to follow the law. Those that violate it face a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for every offense after that.


Not every plastic bag is affected by the law. Bags used for uncooked meat and produce will still be allowed at supermarkets, as will prescription drug bags at pharmacies and carryout bags at restaurants. Bags used to wrap laundry, such as dry-cleaning bags, are also exempt, as are bags sold in bulk like trash bags and Ziploc bags.


Consumers have a few options. State officials are urging residents to buy reusable bags, which are made out of a variety of materials, including cloth and plastic. Here’s more info about reusable bags.

Cities and counties can choose to allow paper bags for a 5-cent fee, so residents in these locales can still get paper bags from stores. The fee applies 3 cents to the state Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents to a campaign promoting plastic bags.