The Ulster County Bring Your Own Bag Act goes into effect on July 15. The act forbids retailers from providing customers with single-use plastic bags at the point of purchase. With this move, the county anticipates the statewide act, scheduled for 2020 enforcement, with which New York will join only two other US states to date (California, of course, but also Hawaii) and 30 nations, from France to Madagascar.
Why not just recycle? The evidence is clear. Fewer than five percent of single-use plastic bags were being recycled in the county. Additionally, it costs more to recycle a plastic bag than to make a new one. Discontinuing these single-use plastic bags will be much more effective for the environment and human health in the long run.
Definitions are key. The Ulster County Bring Your Own Bag Act only applies to establishments engaged in the retail sale of personal, consumer or household items, including but not limited to pharmacies, grocery stores and supermarkets, convenience stores and food marts, apparel stores, home centers, hardware stores, stationery and office supply stores, farmers’ markets and open-air flea markets. This term does not include food service establishments located outside of grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores or food marts.
The county identifies plastic bags at least four millimeters thick and fabric bags, as well as recyclable paper bags, as acceptable reusable bags. A recyclable paper bag refers to a paper bag that contains no old-growth fiber; is 100 percent recyclable overall and contains a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content; and displays the word “Recyclable” on the outside of the bag. To learn more of what does and does not constitute a banned single-use plastic, and about the many forms that reusable bags do (and do not) take, visit https://ulstercountyny.gov/environment/waste-reduction/bring-your-own-bag-act/for-consumers.