Plastic Bag Legislation Resources

Local and state legislation related to single use shopping bags is expected to continue growing in 2020. For example, in New York by March 20th, retailers will have to comply with specific bag requirements. The increase in legislation across the country, as well as the varying requirements and specifications for bags, makes it hard for retailers to keep track and prepare for compliance. The Retail Compliance Center (RCC), an initiative of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), is working to keep retailers up to date on consumer bag legislation and provide answers to help with compliance. The RCC has several resources and tools on consumer bag legislation that are listed below.

  • Consumer Bag Tracking Matrix - provides an overview of consumer bag legislation across the United States by state and/or municipality, as applicable, for both paper and plastic bags.

  • Consumer Bag FAQ – details common questions posed by retailers on consumer bag legislation and provides suggested resources as guidance.

  • Mandatory Recycling and Disposal Ban Fact Sheet - focuses on waste streams most relevant to retail store operations and distribution centers and includes information on commonly recycled materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass.

We have also identified common exemption language for plastic bags through state legislation that would be helpful to retailers. Many local requirements also exempt these types of bags, in addition to others. The most frequently exempted bags include:

  • Pharmacy bags for prescription medications
  • Non-handled bag used to protect purchased items from damage
  • Garment/drycleaner bags
  • Bags solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat; produce; candy; bulk items

Several states have bag legislation at the state level, and for several states including New York, Maine, Oregon and Vermont, the effective dates are in 2020. We have provided a summary of state bag legislation below with states that were identified as top interest to retailers.

State Passed (Compliance Date)/ Proposed Plastic Bags Bag fee (1) Reusable Paper Bags Compostable/ Biodegradable Plastic Specs for Paper Bags Specs for Reusable Bags
Hawaii July 2015 yes no yes yes no yes yes
California Nov. 2016 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
New York March 20, 2020 yes no yes yes n/a yes yes
Maine April 22, 2020 yes yes yes yes n/a yes yes
Oregon Jan 1, 2020 yes yes yes yes n/a yes yes
Vermont July 1, 2020 yes yes yes yes no yes yes
Massachusetts Proposed yes tbd tbd tbd tbd tbd tbd
New Jersey Proposed yes tbd yes yes no yes yes

n/a = law does not mention this type of bag in legislation tbd= legislation has not been fully determined yet

1 = Some states are mandating bag fees at point of sale – the amounts range from $0.05 to $0.10 and some require a portion or all be remitted to the state or local government

For updates to the summary below and direct links to the legislation, visit the Consumer Bag Tracking Matrix.

  • Consumer Product Compliance
  • Environmental Compliance
  • Legal Affairs & Compliance
  • Retail Sustainability

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