State Plastic and Paper Bag Legislation

1/24/2020

person holding plastic bagsState legislatures have considered a number of measures to reduce the prevalence of plastic bags at grocery stores and other businesses. 

Reducing bag use can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests and the wildlife that inhabit them. It can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management.

While some states are focusing on implementing effective recycling programs, others are imposing bans or fees to discourage the use of plastic bags altogether. 

Bans and Fees

Eight states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont—have banned single-use plastic bags.

In August 2014, California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. The bill also required a 10-cent minimum charge for recycled paper bags, reusable plastic bags, and compostable bags at certain locations. The ban was set to take effect on July 1, 2015, but a referendum forced the issue onto the ballot in the November 2016 election. Proposition 67 passed with 52 percent of the vote, meaning the plastic bag ban approved by the Legislature remains the law. A detailed summary of the law can be found below. Voters also rejected a second measure, Proposition 65, which proposed to create an environmental fund with proceeds from a 10-cent charge for alternative bags.

Hawaii has a de facto statewide ban as all of its most populous counties 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, with Honolulu becoming the last major county to approve the ban in 2015.

New York became the third state to ban plastic bags in 2019 with passage of Senate Bill 1508. The law, which goes into effect March 2020, will apply to most single-use plastic bags provided by grocery stores and other retailers. Bags distributed at the meat/deli counter and bulk food area are exempt, as well as newspaper bags, trash bags, garment bags, bags provided by a pharmacy for prescription drugs, and restaurant takeout bags. The law allows individual counties the option of placing a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state's Environmental Protection Fund. 

Five other states enacted legislation in 2019—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon and Vermont. In addition to plastic bags, Vermont's SB 113 also placed restrictions on single-use straws and polystrene containers. 

In 2009, the District of Columbia enacted legislation requiring all businesses that sell food or alcohol to charge 5 cents for each carryout paper or plastic bag.

Notable Cities/Counties with Plastic Bag Bans and Fees
Cities with Plastic Bag Bans Cities with Plastic Bag Bans and Fees
Boston Boulder, Colo.
Chicago Montgomery County, Md.
Los Angeles New York
San Francisco Portland, Maine
Seattle Washington, D.C.

Recycling Programs

States have a long history of pursuing legislation related to labeling, recycling, and reusing plastic bags. In 1991, Maine became the first state to enact legislation requiring recycling efforts at retail stores. The law prevents retailers from supplying plastic bags unless they provide a convenient storefront receptacle to ensure used bags are collected and recycled. Since then at least four other states—California, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island—and the District of Columbia have followed suit.  

Legislation Summary

State lawmakers have introduced at least 95 bills in 2019 related to plastic bags. Most of these bills would ban or place a fee on plastic bags. Others would preempt local government action or improve bag recycling programs. 

States with Enacted Plastic Bag Legislation

US map showing states with plastic bag legislation.

 

 

Enacted Plastic Bag State Legislation

State Citation Status Summary
Arizona 2015 SB 1241 Enacted
California 2014 SB 270 Put to Referendum, Passed As of July 1, 2015, certain large stores are prohibited from providing a single-use plastic carryout bag to a customer, unless the retailer makes that bag available for $0.10 and certain conditions are met.
California 2011 CA S 567 Enacted Prohibits the sale of plastic products labeled as compostable, home compostable, or marine-degradable unless it meets standard specifications. It provides for a civil penalty for a violation.
California

2010 SB 228

Enacted

Requires manufacturers of compostable plastic bags 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 symbol in any form.

California

2006 AB 2449

Enacted

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.

Connecticut  2019 HB 7424 Enacted Imposes a 10-cent fee on single-use plastic bags provided at the point of sale until June 30, 2021 and bans them beginning July 1, 2021.
Delaware 2019 HB 130 Enacted Expands upon the existing at-store recycling program regarding the use of single-use plastic bags and limits stores subject to the program from providing single-use plastic bags for only specific uses.

Delaware

2009 HB 15; Amended by 2014 HB 198

Enacted

Encourages the use of reusable bags by consumers and retailers. It requires a store to establish an at-store recycling program that provides an opportunity for customers of the store to return plastic bags and requires all plastic carryout bags to display a recycling message.

District of Columbia

2010 B 150

Enacted

Protects the aquatic and environmental assets of the District of Columbia, bans the use of disposable non-recyclable plastic carryout bags, establishes a fee on all other disposable carryout bags provided by certain retail stores, and establishes the recurring Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Fund.

Idaho

2016 HB 372

Enacted

States that any regulation regarding the use, disposition or sale of plastic bags or other “auxiliary containers” shall be imposed only by a statute enacted by the legislature.

Illinois

2016 HR 1139

Adopted

Establishes "Recycle Thin Film Friday” in the State of Illinois as an effort to reclaim used thin-film plastic bags and to encourage consumers to use reusable bags.

Maine 2019 HB 1115 Enacted Prohibits a retail establishment from providing single-use carryout bags at the point of sale or otherwise making the bags available to customers, with exemptions for certain types and uses of plastic and paper bags.

Maine

2010 SB 131

Enacted

Convenes a workgroup, through a partnership with state agencies and other appropriate entities, to work towards a viable solution to the checkout bag issue to achieve environmental benefits, maintain financial viability for manufacturers and retailers and avoid cost impacts, provides for a report to the legislature.

Maine

1991 LD 1166

Enacted

Retailers may only provide customers with plastic bags if there is a receptacle to collect used plastic bags within 20 feet of the entrance and all plastic bags collected are then recycled.

Mississippi 2018 SB 2570 Enacted (Preemption)

Missouri

2015 HB 722

Enacted

It provides all merchants doing business in the state with the option to provide either paper or plastic bags. Prevents localities from imposing a ban, fee, or tax upon the use of either paper or plastic bags.

New York

2008 AB 11725

Enacted

Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act; retailers of stores are to establish in-store recycling programs that provide an opportunity for the customer to return clean plastic 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

2010 SB 1018

Enacted

Reduces plastic and non-recycled paper bag use on North Carolina's Outer Banks. A retailer subject to certain provisions shall display a sign in a location viewable by customers saying “[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."

North Carolina 2017 HB 56 Enacted Repeals the eight-year ban on the use of plastic bags by retailers on the Outer Banks.
North Dakota 2019 HB 1200 Enacted Prohibits a political subdivision from regulating an auxiliary container.
Oklahoma 2019 SB 1001 Enacted Preempts local governments from regulating, taxing, or restricting the sale or use of an “auxiliary container,” such as plastic bags, plastic water bottles, or disposable food containers.
Oregon 2019 HB 2509 Enacted Prohibits, with certain exceptions, retail establishments and restaurants from providing single-use plastic bags to customers unless they charge a minimum of five cents per bag.

Rhode Island

2008 SB 2565

Enacted

This legislation promotes the use of paper bags by retailers. Retail establishments must offer the use of paper bags 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.

Tennessee 2019 HB 1021 Enacted Prohibits local governments from regulating in various ways auxiliary containers, a term that includes plastic bags along with many other products. 
Vermont 2019 SB 113 Enacted Relates to the prohibition of plastic carryout bags, expanded polystyrene, and single-use plastic straws.