Stores must recycle plastic bags [New York State]

Under a new state law, certain retail and grocery stores are required to set up plastic bag recycling programs for customers. The law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, applies to stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space, and chains that operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space. These stores must make collection bins for plastic bag recycling available to customers. The goal of the new law is to get customers to recycle and reuse plastic bags, and reduce waste and litter. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, each year Americans throw away more than 100 billion plastic bags, and less than 1 percent are recycled. The agency notes that recycling plastic bags will protect wildlife, because plastic bags can be ingested or swallowed by animals. “Even during difficult times we must be protective stewards of our environment, and continue to find ways to keep our daily routines from negatively impacting the long-term health of the planet,” Gov. David Paterson said in a statement. “By making changes in our daily lives and business practices, we can conserve natural resources, save energy and reduce our ecological footprint.” Plastic bags are made of polyethylene, a petroleum product. The plastic bag recycling law was first proposed two years ago, and most major chains established recycling bins soon after, according to Laura Haight, senior environmental associate for the New York Public Interest Research Group. “This shouldn’t be too new to people in the Capital Region,” she said. “When I go to my local Price Chopper, the bin is always full. Hopefully people will take advantage of the opportunity to recycle plastic bags.” Haight said it’s unclear how much of an impact the new law will have, but also noted that none of the area’s curbside recycling programs currently accept plastic bags. Under the law, stores must make reusable bags available for purchase, and allow customers to use reusable bags in lieu of plastic or paper bags. Reusable bags are made of cloth or other machine-washable fabrics. Stores will recycle plastic retail bags with string ties and rigid plastic handles removed, newspaper bags, dry-cleaning bags, produce bags, bread bags, cereal bags, frozen food bags, plastic wrap from paper products, plastic stretch/shrink wrap and plastic zipper-type bags with the plastic closing mechanism removed. They will not recycle bags with strings, rigid plastic handles, closing mechanisms or food residue, soil or mulch bags, bubble wrap, plastic food containers or plastic bottles. Stores are also required to stock plastic bags that say “please return to a participating store for recycling” or “please reuse or recycle at a participating store.” They will be allowed to use their existing stock for up to one year. Stores that recycle plastic bags will not be reusing them. Instead, they will be sent to a recycling facility to be manufactured into new products, such as composite lumber, trash can liners or new plastic bags.
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