Good Question: Who will enforce the plastic bag ban?

Brennan Somers
Updated: February 04, 2020 08:19 AM
Created: February 03, 2020 08:47 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We've been getting a lot of feedback and questions about the plastic bag ban.

We're going to address a few things, starting with a question from a viewer named Stacie. She wondered, who is policing this ban and what are the fines?

Let's start with the penalties.

Once the ban on plastic bags officially begins for everyone on March 1, anyone or any place required to collect a New York sales tax will be barred from issuing single-use plastic bags.

The law details penalties for violations are a fine of $250 the first time after getting a warning, and after that, $500 every time you break the ban that same calendar year.

Companies and business owners would also get the chance to defend themselves before any penalty is handed out.

And now as for who is going to police the ban, that's also detailed in the law.

The state has sole jurisdiction. Local law enforcement or other agencies will not be responsible for enforcing it.

There are a dozen types of "exempt bags," including those used to deliver newspapers and bags used for bulk items picked out of containers like fruits, veggies and parts picked out at a hardware store.

Bags used for carryout or to-go food orders also get a pass.

Stores will be offering other replacements for traditional plastic bags when they're gone, such as paper and reusable bags.

"I believe it's a good thing because we need to be conscious of the environment, climate change and garbage," customer Teena Fitzroy said.

"I wish they would ban them in the produce section, the meat section, the bulk section and every place else," fellow customer Dee Davis said. "I think they're doing what they can, but they could do a lot more and I'm looking forward to them doing that."

Cities and towns can create laws requiring stores to charge a five-cent fee for paper bags.

The money would be split with a portion going to the state environmental protection fund and part of it would stay local, but there's no mandate yet in our region.

Companies like Wegmans and Tops are still charging the fee on their own. They could keep the money, but both are giving paper bag revenue to charities.

Finally, let's clear up some confusion over the other question we keep getting: Can you bring your own bags to the store, even those old plastic bags are banned?

That answer is a clear yes.

The law states stores can't stop you from using a bag of any kind, as long as you take it to the store for the purpose of carrying out goods.

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