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Final plastic bag waste regulations released by DEC

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – The Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday the release of final regulations to implement the New York State Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act. The Act goes into effect on March 1, 2020.

Stores like Wegmans have gotten ahead of the roll-out of these regulations, but what happens starting March 1? According to the DEC, New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags annually—each for about 12 minutes—and approximately 85 percent of this staggering total ends up in landfills, recycling machines, waterways, and streets.

March will begin the total ban of single-use plastic bags; you will need reusable bags regardless of which grocery store you visit.

The DEC released these new regulations on November 27, 2019, and allowed a 60-day public comment period, as well as a public comment hearing. It received approximately 2,500 comments from stakeholders and communities, which were reviewed by the DEC. Following the comment period and hearing, the DEC updated the proposed regulations based on the comments received. Now, these final regulations will be published into the State Register on February 26, 2020.

Governor Cuomo signed legislation to ban the sale of single-use blastic bags in New York State on Earth Day, April 23, 2019. Refinements to the proposed legislation include the following:

  • Changes to the definitions of both “exempt” and “reusable” bags. Specifically, the change allowing “a film plastic bag for which there is no reasonable or practical alternative for storing, containing or transporting items, as determined by the department” was deleted from the regulations.
  • Further clarification and examples were added to the types of exempt bags, and the definition of “exempt bag.”
  • The definition of “reusable bag” was edited to clarify that reusable bags must be made of cloth or other machine-washable fabric or a non-film plastic washable material.
  • Redundancy in the strength and durability standards were deleted from the regulations, and the requirement for handles to be separately attached was removed.
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The DEC is now undertaking a statewide public awareness campaign, BYOBagNY, to educate consumers and impacted businesses about these new regulations. Part of this campaign will include a distribution of more than 270,000 reusable bags, with a focus on low-and-moderate-income communities.

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