Keeping Up with Consumer Bag Legislation

Just this summer, Oregon and Delaware passed bans on the distribution of single-use consumer bags within retail stores. They are the latest in a growing number of states and municipalities with consumer bag legislation, with many others on the brink of joining. During this exciting time for environmentalists, however, it is becoming harder to keep track of who has consumer bag legislation on the books as ordinances continue to roll in; a task made more difficult as some jurisdictions keep changing their minds about consumer bag legislation or finding other issues with their bans.

For example, Homer, Alaska passed a ban on plastic bags in 2012, then rescinded it, just to put it back on the ballot again this year. In North Carolina, the state recently overturned local consumer bag bans in beach-side communities in the Outer Banks- bans that had been in place for 8 years. This year, the State of Colorado noticed that a 1993 statute related to recycling actually banned municipalities from banning plastic bag bans. In the 26 years before the ban on bag legislation resurfaced, ten municipalities had enacted local consumer bag legislation, unaware or keeping quiet that they were violating state regulations.

Within all this swirling legislative change, the Retail Compliance Center is attempting to help retailers know up from down. We have compiled an ever-growing list of states and municipalities that have consumer bag legislation, broken down into key provisions. An actively updated consumer bag legislation matrix will be available on the RCC website in September; in the interim, we are providing a summary of legislation updated as of July. The summary outlines statewide consumer bag legislation, including bag bans, a ban on bag bans, and/or a fee. Also included are the types of bags allowed, as well as specifications for the allowable bags.

To stay up to date on bag bans, sign up for RCC Alerts, our monthly email that touches on the latest topics in environmental compliance in retail.

Kevin Gibney, Coordinator, Environmental Programs and Retail Compliance Center

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