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Plastic Bag Recycling: New York State’s Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Act

Effective January 1, 2009, statewide law requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a plastic carry out bag recycling program for their customers.

Stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry out bags to customers, are required to comply with the law.

Apart from the plastic carry out bags covered by the law, stores are required to take other plastic bags in their recycling programs

  • Plastic retail bags with string ties and rigid plastic handles removed
  • Plastic newspaper bags
  • Plastic dry-cleaning bags
  • Plastic produce bags with all food residue removed
  • Plastic bread bags with all food residue removed
  • Plastic cereal bags with all food residue removed
  • Plastic frozen food bags with all food residue removed
  • Plastic wrap from paper products (paper towels, etc)
  • Plastic stretch/shrink wrap with all food residue removed
  • Plastic zipper-type bags with plastic closing mechanism removed
    Note: All materials must be clean and dry

BUT These Items Can Not be Recycled With Plastic Bags:

  • Plastic bags with strings, rigid plastic handles, closing mechanisms
    or food residue
  • Plastic soil or mulch bags
  • Plastic bubble wrap
  • Plastic food containers
  • Plastic bottles

For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about this program visit the NYSDECwebsite.

Why Recycle Plastic Bags?

Each year, Americans throw away more than 100 billion plastic bags. Less than 1% are recycled. Recycling these bags reduces waste and litter, resulting in cleaner streets and waterways and less material in landfills. Recycling also protects wildlife because plastic bags can be dangerous to animals that ingest them or are strangled by them. In addition, using recycled plastic bags in place of virgin plastics reduces our demand for oil. Recycled plastic bags provide valuable material to manufacturers of plastic lumber, plastic bags and other useful products.

Avoiding the Use of Plastic Bags Helps Even More!

Instead of using a plastic bag, you can:

Use canvas, cloth or a durable plastic bag.

  • Reusable bags are more environmentally friendly than paper or plastic. Under the law, any store required to recycle plastic bags must also sell reusable bags. Keep them in your car for the next time you have to run out for groceries.

Say, “No thank you.”

  • Not all items require a bag so tell the clerk, “No thank you.” Carry small purchase items, like a magazine, candy, or a drink, to the car instead of in a plastic bag.