Plastic Bag Legislation

State Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation


Fees, Taxes and Bans | Recycling and Reuse

States are continuing to consider strategies to reduce the number of plastic carry-out bags from grocery stores and other retail outlets. Some states are targeting paper bags as well. Regulating bags can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes and the wildlife that inhabit them. Reducing bag use can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management. 

Bans and Fees

In August 2014, California became the first state legislature to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on September 30. The ban will take effect on July 1, 2015.

person holding plastic bagsIn addition, there will be a 10 cent minimum charge for recycled paper bags, reusable plastic bags, and compostable bags at certain locations. A detailed summary of the law can be found below. In addition to California, a de facto statewide ban exists in Hawaii as all of the most populous counties in the state prohibit non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout, as well as paper bags containing less than 40 percent recycled material. Bans in Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties took effect between 2011 and 2013. Retailers in Honolulu County have until July 1, 2015, to make the change. 

In 2009, the District of Columbia enacted a law to ban the distribution of disposable, non-recyclable plastic carry-out bags and set a fee of 5 cents for distribution of all other disposable bags.

In 2009, North Carolina banned plastic bags for the Outer Banks region, a chain of barrier islands off its coast. However, in 2011, the state passed legislation to temporarily suspend that ban due to a tornado that hit Dunn, North Carolina, which is the major distribution center for paper bags in the area. The ban has yet to be restored.

2014 Legislation Summary

As mentioned above, California lawmakers passed the first statewide plastic bag ban in the United States in 2014. Senate Bill 270 was signed by the governor on September 30, 2014. Legislation is pending in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico that would also ban single-use bags.

Four states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania— are considering a fee or tax on the distribution of bags which a shopper will have to pay, either directly or indirectly, with proposed fees ranging from 1 cent to 15 cents per bag. Depending on the state, the revenue would be used to improve recycling practices and encourage recycling, or help fund capital expenditures at state parks and historic sites. A portion of the revenue could also be returned to retail stores.

Recycling Programs and Requirements

States have continued to propose and enact legislation relating to labeling, recycling, and reusing plastic bags. In 2010, California passed legislation that requires manufacturers of compostable plastic bags to ensure that the bag is readily and easily identifiable from other bags. That same year, Delaware enacted an At-Store Recycling Program. The legislation encourages the use of reusable bags, requires stores to establish an at-store recycling program that provides an opportunity for customers of the store to return clean plastic bags, requires that plastic carry-out bags display a recycling message and provides fines and penalties for noncompliance. Illinois passed similar legislation, the Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act, in 2012, but it was vetoed by the Governor.

 Energy and Environment Legislation Tracking Database 

 Enacted Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation 

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Enacted Plastic Bag State Legislation Summaries


Statewide Ban on Single-Use Carryout Bags (2014 CA S 270)

Prohibits certain large stores, as of July 1, 2015, from providing a single-use plastic carryout bag to a customer, with specified exceptions. Prohibits a store from selling or distributing a recycled paper bag, reusable plastic bag or compostable bag at the point of sale unless the store makes that bag available for purchase for at least $0.10 and certain conditions are met. The ban does not apply to handle-less plastic bags used to protect meat and produce from damaging or contaminating other purchased items. After July 1, 2016, these prohibitions and requirements will take effect for smaller stores such as convenience food stores. Revenue will be retained by the store to offset costs associated with providing recycled or reusable bags and complying with other provisions of the law. Persons or entities that violate the law may be subject to civil penalties imposed by the city, county or state of California.

Requires reusable grocery bags sold to customers at the point of sale to be made by a certified producer and to meet certain criteria with regard to the bag’s durability, material, labeling and heavy metal content. In addition to these requirements, a reusable bag made from plastic film, as opposed to other natural or synthetic fibers, must meet certain benchmarks for recycled material content by 2016 and 2020. Beginning July 1, 2015, bags made from plastic film may not be sold or distributed unless certified by a third party entity. Applications for certification must include specified information that verifies, among other things, the incorporation of clean postconsumer recycled material.

Declares that it occupies the whole field of regulation of reusable grocery bags, single-use carryout bags, and recycled paper bags and prohibits a local public agency from enforcing or implementing an ordinance, resolution, regulation, or rule adopted on or after September 1, 2014, relating to those bags, against a store unless expressly authorized. Allows a local public agency that has adopted such an ordinance prior to September 1, 2014, to continue to enforce and implement that ordinance or other type of regulation, but preempts any amendments other than to increase the bag charge at covered stores.

A sum of $2,000,000 is appropriated from the Recycling Market Development Revolving Loan Subaccount to the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to provide loans for the creation and retention of jobs and economic activity in California for the manufacture and recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags that use recycled content. (09/30/2014 - Enacted)

Compostable or Marine Degradable Plastic Bags (2010 CA S 228)
Requires a manufacturer of a compostable plastic bag to ensure that the bag is readily and easily identifiable from other bags. Prohibits a compostable plastic bag sold in the state from displaying a chasing arrow resin identification code or recycling type of symbol in any form. Requires a manufacturer to comply with these requirements only to the extent that labeling requirements do not conflict with federal requirements. (09/28/2010 - Enacted)

Recycling: Plastic Products (2012 CA S 567)
Prohibits the sale of a plastic product labeled as compostable, home compostable, or marine degradable unless it meets standard specifications or a specified standard, or the plastic product is labeled with a qualified claim and the plastic product meets that standard. Prohibits the sale of a plastic product that is labeled as biodegradable, degradable, decomposable, or as otherwise specified. Provides for a civil penalty for a violation. Provides for the continuation of plastic bag labeling provisions. (10/08/2011 - Enacted)

At-Store Recycling Program (2006 CA A 2449)
Retail stores must adopt an at-store recycling program. Plastic bags used at retailers must have clearly printed “Please Return to a Participating Store for Recycling” on the bag. Retailers must also make reusable bags available for purchase by the customer, in lieu of plastic bags. (Repealed January 1, 2020)


At Store Recycling Program (2009 DE H 15; Amended by 2014 DE H 198)
Encourages the use of reusable bags by consumers and retailers, requires a store to establish an at-store recycling program that provides an opportunity for a customer of the store to return clean plastic bags, requires all plastic carryout bags to display a recycling message, requires stores to maintain records of collection and recycling of plastic bags, prohibits imposition of a plastic bag fee upon a compliant store, provides for fines and penalties. (08/17/2009 - Enacted)

Recycling Program (2012 DE SCR 24)
Requests a report and suggestions for improvement on the at-store recycling program of plastic carryout bags for the purpose of improving the program and bettering the environment. (06/29/2011 - Enacted)

District of Columbia

Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act (2010 DC B 150)

Protects the aquatic and environmental assets of the District of Columbia, to ban the use of disposable non-recyclable plastic carryout bags, to establish a fee on all other disposable carryout bags provided by grocery stores, drug stores, liquor stores, restaurants, and food vendors, to give the Mayor the authority to implement rules and procedures to collect the fee, to establish a non-lapsing recurring Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund. (09/23/2009 - Enacted)


Checkout Bags (2010 ME S 131)

Convenes a work group, through a partnership with state agencies and other appropriate entities, to work together towards a viable solution to the checkout bag issue to achieve environmental benefits, maintain financial viability for manufacturers and retailers and avoid cost impacts for consumers, provides for a report to the legislature. (05/19/2009 - Enacted)

Recycling Plastic Bags (1991 ME LD 1166)
Retailers may only provide customers with plastic bags if there is a receptacle to collect used plastic bags with twenty feet of the entrance and all the plastic bags collected are then recycled.

New York

Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act (2008 NY A 11725)
Retailers of stores are to establish in-store recycling programs that provide an opportunity for the customer to return clean plastic carryout bags to be recycled. The plastic carryout bags provided by the store must have printed on them “Please return to a Participating Store for Recycling.”

North Carolina

Plastic Bag Use (2010 NC S 1018)

Reduces plastic and non-recycled paper bag use on North Carolina's outer banks (a sea turtle nesting area). A retailer subject to G.S. 130A-309.102 shall display a sign in a location viewable by customers containing the following notice: "[county name] County discourages the use of single-use plastic and paper bags to protect our environment from excess litter and greenhouse gases. We would appreciate our customers using reusable bags, but if you are not able to, a 100% recycled paper bag will be furnished for your use." Please see additional NC bills for identical language regarding the use of plastic bags and fines. (06/24/2009 - Enacted)

Plastic Bag Management (2011 NC S 146)
Suspends the ban on plastic bags in certain coastal areas due to a disruption in the supply of paper bags because of the severe tornados. The major distribution center for paper bags used by retailers in the areas subject to the ban was located in Dunn, NC, but was severely damaged and rendered unusable by the tornados of April 16, 2011. The General Assembly finds that the suspension of the requirement until the supply chain for paper bags is restored is in the public interest. This act becomes effective April 16, 2011. (04/20/2011 - Enacted)
**Suspends the above bill.

Rhode Island

Promotion of Paper Bag Usage (2008 RI S 2565)
To decrease use of plastic bags, this legislation promotes the use of paper bags by retailers. Retail establishments must offer the use of a paper bag to the consumer. Every retail establishment that provides customers with plastic bags must provide conveniently located receptacles where customers can return their clean and dry plastic bags to be recycled. Failure to comply with these laws is punishable with fines up to $500.

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2013-14 Pending State Legislation Summaries


Bill and Author



MA S 1350 – Joyce  02/15/2013

Provides that stores that gross more than $1 million per tax year must pay the commissioner an excise tax of 2-cent per non-recyclable plastic bag. Customers do not pay any excise on any non-recyclable plastic bag or compostable bag that the customer brings into the store him or herself. The excise collected is distributed as follows: (1) Fifty percent goes back to the store that collects the excise for purposes of improving recycling practices, recycling awareness in stores, and providing educational materials to encourage recycling; (2) Fifty percent goes to the Commonwealth for related purposes consistent with recycling plans of the solid waste master plan.


MA HB 787 – Provost 01/22/2013

MA SB 359 – Eldridge 02/15/2013

The “Plastic Bag Reduction Act” prohibits any retail establishment from distributing plastic carryout bags to customers, but does not apply to produce or product bags. Should a retail establishment provide carryout bags to customers, the bags must be recyclable paper carryout bags and can be provided for a fee. A retail establishment can make reusable carryout bags available for sale. Nothing prohibits a customer from using bags of any type that they bring to the store themselves.


MA HB 696 – Ehrlich 01/22/2013

Retail establishments would be prohibited from distributing single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bags. However, should a retail establishment provides carryout bags to customers; the bags must be one of the following: (1) recyclable paper bags, (2) reusable carryout bags, or (3) a bag that meets certain specifications.


HB 3438 - Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture

This bill would require all retail establishments who provide plastic carryout bags to customers to provide only plastic bags that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials standards of being compostable and marine biodegradable. Retail establishments would still be able to provide reusable bags available for sale to customers or utilize recyclable paper bags at checkout.

New Jersey

SB 563 – Turner



AB 1367 – Stender

Requires stores to impose a $0.05 fee for each disposable carryout bag offered at the point of sale. The store would retain $0.01 and remit the remaining $0.04 to the Department of Environmental Protection for programs to improve water quality. Allows stores to establish a voluntary carryout bag credit program, where a customer would receive a $0.05 credit for each bag provided. These provisions would apply to convenience stores, bakeries, drugstores, supermarkets, liquor stores and restaurants. Beginning in 2015, stores would be prohibited from providing a disposable carryout bag unless the carryout bag is recyclable.

AB 1345 – Stender



SB 1462 – Greenstein


Requires retail store operators to establish in-store recycling programs that provide opportunities for customers to return clean plastic carryout bags.

AB 2670 – McKeon

Requires retail stores to restrict the use of non-compostable plastic bags by 50 percent of the current volume by November 30, 2014. Would ban all non-compostable plastic bags from use in the state by December 31, 2016.

New York

SB 5927 – Krueger

Requires the collection and deposit of a $0.05 charge for each plastic bag provided by a retailer to its customers and a $0.05 charge on each piece of plastic film shipped to the state. The retailer would retain $0.02 of each charge and the remaining $0.03 would be deposited in a plastic bag and film charge account.

SB 7409 – Sanders

The bill would increase the number of stores required to provide a recycling bin for collecting unwanted plastic bags under the 2008 "Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act."


NY A 1864 – Schimel  01/19/2013

Would require store operators to post signs regarding reusable bags and to print on single-use plastic bags the words “PLEASE RETURN TO A PARTICIPATING STORE FOR RECYCLING." Store operators will also be required to provide a visible plastic bag collection bin.


NY A 3113 – Ortiz  01/23/2013

Would impose a 15-cent tax on plastic shopping bags used to transport every sale of tangible property by consumers from shops, supermarkets, service stations, and all sales outlets.


NY S 1033 – Serrano 01/09/2013

Pennies for the Parks Program would provide funds for capital expenditures at state parks and historic sites. Imposes a tax on single use carryout plastic bags, and holds funds received by the tax on single use carryout plastic bags in the Pennies for the Parks Program. The funding stream would be created by imposing a 1-cent fee on each single use carryout plastic bag distributed by retailers in New York..


NY A 947 – Kellner  01-09-2013

Would impose a fee on the use of plastic carryout bags and allow store operators to charge customers a fee to purchase reusable tote bags. Would also require store operators to provide a collection bin for single-use plastic bags. Local laws imposing taxes authorized to collect taxes on the purchase of single-use plastic bags by store operators shall be created. Local tax laws would provide for the allowance of credits against such taxes of five cents for each taxable plastic carry-out bag if manufactured with a minimum of thirty percent recycled material.


AB 167- Kavanagh

This bill expands the requirement to provide a recycling bin for collecting unwanted plastic bags to stores with over 5,000 square feet in New York City. It would also grant certain enforcement powers to New York City, and the city’s Environmental Control Board shall have the power to impose civil penalties.


SB 1532- Perkins

Effective immediately, this bill will require all retail stores to charge and collect a $0.05 fee per single-use carryout bag provided to customers. If a receipt for the transaction is provided by the retail store, the receipt must specify the amount of single-use bags used per customer accompanied by the corresponding charge. Of this $0.05 tax, retail stores are permitted to keep $0.02 tax free. The remaining $0.03 from the tax will be placed into the Nickels for Nature Fund to be used for capital expenditures at state parks and historic sites.

Retail stores are required to provide a $0.05 rebate to customers who provide their own reusable bags, but the rebate is limited to no more than $0.05 per transaction, regardless of how many reusable bags the customer provides. Violations of this bill will be assessed as such; a written warning for the first violation, a fine of not more than $100 for the second violation within a calendar year, a fine of not more than $200 for the third violation within a calendar year, and a fine of not more than $500 for a four and any subsequent violations within a calendar year.


AB 5972- Englebright

This bill would require vendors to charge and collect a $0.01 fee per single-use carryout bag provided to a customer in addition to any other state or local law on point. If a transaction receipt is provided, the receipt must specify the amount of single-use bags used per customer accompanied by the corresponding charge. All of the funds collected by vendors under this bill will be deposited into the Pennies for Parks Fund to be used for capital expenditures at state parks and historic sites.

Pennsylvania SB 1080 - Leach 9/16/2013 This bill declares that a retail establishment with more than $1,000,000 in annual sales must impose a fee of two cents for each plastic bag to a customer. The fee shall be collected by the Department of Revenue, with fifty percent of the collected fees paid as a grant to the retail establishment, provided that the retail establishment enters into an agreement that the grant money will be used for the improvement of recycling practices, education and compliance with the provisions of this bill. The balance of the account shall be used for recycling programs authorized by law.
Puerto Rico SB 144 - Rivera Schatz 1/14/2103 This bill would prohibit the use, manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of disposable plastic bags starting in January 2015, except if they are manufactured to be biodegradable.
Rhode Island

HB 7178 – Cimini



SB 2314 – Lombardo

Effective January 1, 2014, large retail stores would be prohibited from making available any plastic checkout bag. Effective January 1, 2015, retail stores of all sizes would be prohibited from providing plastic checkout bags.


Source: NCSL

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