Plastic Bag Legislation

State Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation: Fees, Taxes and Bans; Recycling and Reuse

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person holding plastic bagsFebruary 2014

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

No state has yet to enact a statewide ban, fee or tax. However, Hawaii does have a de-facto statewide ban, as all four counties in the state now ban non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout as well as paper bags that are not at least 40 percent recycled.  Kauai and Maui counties already enforce bans, while Hawaii County's ban takes effect on Jan. 17, 2013.  Honolulu County made the ban statewide when it passed legislation in May 2012. 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

Currently, three states - California, Massachusetts and Washington, as well as Puerto Rico -  are considering legislation that would ban single-use bags.

Eight states – California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington— 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. Hawaii would impose fees ranging from 5 cents to 25 cents if the state finds that distribution of single-use bags has not decreased 75 percent by a specified date. Depending on the state, the revenue would go to state parks, school districts, community improvement trusts or other public programs.

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.

 Energy and Environment Legislation Tracking Database 

 Enacted Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation 

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Enacted Plastic Bag State Legislation Summaries

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 (Cal Pub Resources Code §§ 4225 – 7)
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, 2013)

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*)

At Store Recycling Program
(7 Del. C. § 6099A)
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*)

Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act
(2011 IL S 3442)
The Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act requires manufacturers of plastic carryout bags to register with the Environmental Protection Agency and pay the agency an initial registration fee and annual registration renewal fee. It would prohibit a manufacturer from selling or offering to sell a plastic bag in the state unless its name is printed on the bag, while requiring the manufacturers to develop an agency-approved plan for the recycling of plastic carryout bags and plastic film product wrap. This bill would also preempt local governments in IL from regulating (via fees or bans) plastic bags and film in any way (06/29/2012 – To Governor for Signature*)

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 (38 M.R.S. §1605)
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 (NY CLS ECL §§ 27-2701 - 2713)
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
(R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 23-18.11-1 – 11-6)
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.


2013-14 Pending State Legislation Summaries

CaliforniaHawaii | Massachusetts | New York | Pennsylvania | Puerto Rico | Vermont | Virginia | Washington


Bill and Author



CA AB 158 – Levine  01/22/2013

Prohibits specified stores from providing a single-use carryout bag to a customer after January 31, 2015. A single-use bag is defined as a “a bag made of plastic, paper, or other material, that is provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale and that is not a reusable grocery bag.” A re-usable bag is defined as a bag that is “Designed and manufactured to withstand, at a minimum, 125 uses.” Stores can provide recyclable paper bags and requires stores to provide reusable grocery bags for purchase.  Requires stores to provide a plastic bag collection bin for their customers, for the purpose of collecting and recycling single-use plastic bags. Requires the submission of a biennial certification and fee.

  SB 270 Padilla 2/06/2014

This bill, as of July 1, 2015, would prohibit larger stores from providing a single-use carryout bag to a customer, with specified exceptions. The bill would also prohibit a store from selling or distributing a recycled paper bag, plastic bag or compostable bag (only in jurisdictions where a majority of households have access to curbside composting, and the jurisdiction has voted to allow the sale of compostable bags) at the point of sale unless the store makes that bag available for purchase for at least $0.10 and meets specified requirements. After July 1, 2016, these prohibitions and requirements would take effect for smaller stores such as convenience food stores. The bill would allow a city, county, or city and county, or the state to impose civil penalties for a violation of the bill’s requirements.  


The bill would also require the operator of larger stores to establish an at-store recycling program that provides an opportunity for customers to return to the store clean polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate bags. The bill would prohibit a producer of reusable grocery bags made from specified plastics from selling or distributing those bags on and after January 1, 2016, unless the producer is certified by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. The bill would require the application for certification to include specified information that verifies the incorporation of clean postconsumer recycled material. The bill would also authorize a supplier of postconsumer recycled material to a producer of those bags to apply to the department for certification as a supplier of material.


The bill would declare that it occupies the whole field of the regulation of reusable grocery bags, single-use carryout bags, and recycled paper bags and would prohibit 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. The bill would allow 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 and would preempt any amendments to such a regulation, except that the bill allows a local public agency to adopt or set a price for a recycled paper bag, compostable bag, or reusable grocery bag. This bill also appropriates $2,000,000 from the Recycling Market Development Revolving Loan Subaccount to the department for the purposes of providing loans and grants 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. The bill would require a recipient of a grant to agree, as a condition of receiving a grant, to take specified actions.


SB 700- Wolk

As of January 1, 2014, this bill would require a retail establishment to collect a charge of $0.05 for each single-use carryout bag provided to a customer. It would require the retail establishment to retain $0.005 of that charge and would allow a retail establishment to retain an additional $0.005 if the retail establishment credits the consumer no less than $0.05 for each reusable carryout bag provided by the consumer for packaging his or her purchases. Retail stores are required to specify, on the transaction receipt, the number of single-use carry out bags used by each consumer.

The remaining funds will be deposited into the Local Environment Enhancement Fund for expenditure by the Natural Resources Agency. No less than 95% of the collected charges in the Local Environmental Enhancement Fund are to be used to issue grants to a city or county for local parks and for local programs aimed at reducing and cleaning up litter. Local state parks operated by nonprofit organizations or public-private nonprofit organization partnerships shall receive priority in receiving grants funds. Cities and counties that are eligible to receive grants from the Natural Resources Agency are required to develop criteria to receive and for awarding local grants. This bill would not take effect if Senate Bill 405 is enacted and amends state law to prohibit the provision of single-use carryout bags to a customer at a point of sale.


HI H 934 – Souki  01/24/2013

HI S 1165 – Kim  01/24/2013

Establishes a 10-cent fee for every single-use checkout bags, which might increase to 25 cents in 2018. If after July 1, 2017, the state determines that the statewide distribution of single-use checkout bags has not decreased by at least seventy-five per cent from the effective date of the ban, the fee shall increase to 25-cents on January 1, 2018. At the end of each month, the fees will be deposited into the environmental management special fund to mitigate against damaging effects of single-use checkout bags.


HI H 357 – Lowen  01/22/2013

Beginning January 1, 2014, all businesses shall charge and collect a fee of 10-cents per single use bag provided to customers, except for customers who participate in federal supplemental nutrition assistance program and special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. If, after July 1, 2016, the state determines that the statewide distribution of single-use checkout bags has not decreased by at least seventy-five per cent from the effective date of the ban, the fee shall increase to 25-cents on January 1, 2017. Stores can keep 20% of fees collected between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015 and 10% from January 1, 2016 thereafter. All fees remitted to the state will be deposited into the Environmental Management Special Fund. After costs are covered, twenty percent of the balance goes towards the Environmental Response Revolving Fund and eighty percent goes to the Natural Area Reserve Fund for watershed protection, restoration, and acquision.


SB 13- Gabbard,
SB 14- Gabbard,
HB 356- Lowen

As of January 1, 2014, these bills would require all business to charge and collect a fee of $0.10 for each single-use checkout bag that is provided to customers. Businesses must include on each customer’s transaction receipt, the number of single-use bags provided to the customer and the corresponding charge. Further, businesses are required to conduct educational outreach to their customer’s regarding the single-use bag fee program.

The first year of the program, a business may retain up to 10% of the collected single-use bag fees (subject to income and general excise tax) as reimbursement for the costs of implementing this program. Businesses are required to submit the remitted fees no later than the last day of each month or face penalties for late or unpaid fees. All fees collected from businesses in this program will be put into an account in the Environmental Management Special Fund.
All bills provide that of the fees remitted to the fund, the first $1,200,000 per year shall be expended by the Department of Health for administrative, education, audit, compliance, and enforcement activities associated with collection of the single-use checkout bag fee. The distribution of the remaining funds varies by bill.
Under SB 13, 20% will be deposited into the Environmental Response Revolving Fund and 80% will be deposited into the Natural Area Reserve Fund to be expended by the Department of Land and Natural Resources for watershed protection and restoration.
Under SB 14, of the remaining funds 50% will be deposited into the state’s general fund and 50% will be distributed to the counties in proportion to their population provided that each county allocates half of its share to fight invasive species.
Under HB 356, of the remaining funds 50% will be deposited into the state’s general fund and 50% will be distributed to the counties proportionate to population provided that the counties spend at least 25% of their share on litter prevention, control, and clean up.
Any business that violates this act will be subject to a minimum fine of $1,000 per violation. This bill does not preempt or affect any county ordinance regulating single-use checkout bags. Additionally, this bill only concerns single-use checkout bags that are not prohibited by a county ordinance. This bill does not prohibit a county from enacting ordinances that are more stringent in the control or prohibition of single-use checkout bags than this part.


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 York

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.


VT HB 491 – McCormack 03/01/2013

Effective July 1, 2013, a fee of 5-cents per disposable carryout bag is imposed. The retail store can retain 1-cent as a processing fee. The remaining 4-cents is paid to the Department of Taxes. Until July 1, 2016, the Department of Taxes will deposit the remainder in the General Fund. After July 1, 2016, the Department will deposit the remainder into the Waste Management Assistance Fund.

Vermont SB 205 – Hartwell  1/7/2014 This bill would, beginning on July 1, 2015, establish a fee of $0.10 for each disposable carryout bag used by a person for the purpose of carrying goods, food, or other products from a retail establishment. The bill also would prohibit a person from selling, distributing at wholesale, or distributing at retail a disposable carryout bag made of plastic or paper unless the disposable carryout bag can be recycled and meets content and label requirements. The Department of Taxes shall deposit the bag fees collected into the Waste Management Assistance Fund for disbursements from the Solid Waste Management Assistance Account.
Virginia HB 117 – Morrissey 1/8/2014 This bill would, beginning on July 1, 2015, impose a tax of five cents on disposable paper bags and plastic bags used by purchasers to carry property purchased in grocery stores, convenience stores, or drug stores. The following would be exempt from the tax: durable, reusable plastic bags; plastic bags used to carry ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, leftover restaurant food, newspapers, and dry cleaning; paper and plastic bags used to carry alcoholic beverages or prescription drugs; and multiple plastic bags sold in packages and intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or leaf removal bags. Retailers are allowed to retain one cent ($0.01) of the five-cent ($0.05) tax or two cents ($0.02) if the retailer has a customer bag credit program. Failure to collect and remit the tax will result in fines of $250, $500, and $1,000 for the first, second, and third and subsequent offenses, respectively. The revenues from the tax would be deposited into the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund. The bill also authorizes each county and city by ordinance to impose a tax on disposable paper bags and disposable plastic bags at the same rate and under the same terms and conditions as the state tax. Revenues from the local tax would be collected by the Tax Commissioner and distributed monthly to the county or city imposing the tax.
Virginia SB 320 – Ebbins 1/8/2014 This bill authorizes localities in Planning District 8 to establish by ordinance the imposition of a tax on disposable paper bags and disposable plastic bags. Revenues from the local tax would be collected by the Tax Commissioner and distributed monthly to the county or city imposing the tax. The bill requires each county or city adopting an ordinance to impose the tax to provide a certified copy of the ordinance to the Tax Commissioner at least six months prior to the date the tax is to become effective.


WA SB 5386 – Mullet  01/28/2013

WA HB 1310 – Fitzgibbon 01/21/2013

A city may adopt regulation to regulate customer’s access to retail carryout bags that are non-biodegradable. The regulation can include the prohibition of plastic bags entirely. The regulation can include the imposition of a 5-cent fee per recyclable paper bag. Should the city opt to adopt this regulation, the city must conform with the model laid out in this legislation.


WA SB 5248 – Chase 01/23/2013

Effective October 1, 2013, a tax is imposed of 2-cents per non-biodegradable plastic bag supplied by the seller to the buyer. Buyers will pay the seller a fee of 2-cents per bag. The tax collected will be deposited into the General Fund.


WA SB 5253 – Chase 01/23/2013

Retail stores may not distribute a carryout bag to a consumer unless the bag is either compostable plastic, recyclable paper, or a reusable carryout bag. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may only enact only those laws relating to retail store carryout bags that are consistent with this chapter.


Source: NCSL



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