[Adopted 9-7-2016 by L.L. No. 27-2016]
This Legislature hereby finds and determines that data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency shows that between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. This Legislature further finds and determines that most plastic bags do not biodegrade; over time, the bags break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers which eventually contaminate soils and waterways. This Legislature further finds that it is estimated that plastic bags account for over 10% of debris that washes up on our nation's coastlines. This Legislature also finds that plastic bags can have a devastating effect on wildlife; birds can become entangled in the bags and different species of sea life can die from ingesting plastic bags which they mistake for food. This Legislature further finds that plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene, a thermoplastic made from oil. Accordingly, reducing the use of plastic bags will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. This Legislature finds that only 5% to 7% of plastic bags are recycled, in part due to the fact that it costs more to recycle a bag than to produce a new one. This Legislature further finds that Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags each year and 14 million trees are cut down yearly for the manufacturing of paper. This Legislature also finds that paper production requires large amounts of water, energy, and chemicals and can emit toxic and hazardous chemicals into the air and water. This Legislature further finds that the nation's paper industry generates more than 12 million tons of solid waste every year. This Legislature finds that New York City recently passed legislation requiring retail stores to charge a fee on carryout bags. Studies indicate that such fees are effective in reducing the proliferation of paper and plastic bags and protecting the environment. This Legislature concludes that in lieu of enacting a total ban of plastic bags, the County of Suffolk should instead require stores to charge a fee of $0.05 on all carryout bags. If this approach fails to reduce the use of plastic bags by at least 75% in three years, the idea of an outright ban can be revisited at a later date.
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to encourage consumers in Suffolk County to use their own reusable bags for shopping by requiring not less than a charge of $0.05 on carryout bags that are provided at retail stores.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CARRYOUT BAG
- Any bag that is provided by a covered store to a customer at the point of sale and is used to carry goods from such store; provided, however, that such term shall not include any of the following:
- A. A bag without handles used to carry produce, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, dry goods or other non-prepackaged food items to the point of sale within a covered store or to prevent such food items from coming into direct contact with other purchased items;
- B. A bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs;
- C. A garment bag; or
- D. Any other bag exempted from the provisions of this article.
- COVERED STORE
- An establishment engaged in the retail sale of personal, consumer or household items, including but not limited to drug stores, pharmacies, grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, food marts, apparel stores, home center and hardware stores, stationery and office supply stores, and food service establishments located within grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores or food marts, that provide carryout bags to customers in which to place purchased items. This term does not include food service establishments located outside of grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores or foodmarts.
- FOOD SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT
- A place where prepared food is provided for individual portion service directly to a consumer, whether consumption occurs on or off the premises.
- Any natural person, firm, corporation, partnership or other organization or group however organized.
- RETAIL SALES
- The transfer to a customer of goods in exchange for payment occurring in retail stores, sidewalk sales, farmers' markets and flea markets. The term "retail sales" does not include sales of goods at yard sales, tag sales, and other sales by residents at their homes.
- REUSABLE CARRYOUT BAG
- A bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is either: 1) made of cloth or other machine-washable material, but not film plastic; or 2) made of durable plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick. Reusable carryout bags provided to customers pursuant to this article shall be conspicuously labeled as reusable.
Covered stores shall charge a fee of not less than $0.05 for each carryout bag provided to any customer. All fees collected by a covered store under this article shall be retained by the store. Covered stores shall separately itemize the fee charged pursuant to this article on the standard receipt provided to customers.
No covered store shall charge a fee for, or prevent a customer from using, a carryout bag brought by the customer to such store to carry purchased goods from such store.
Paper carryout bags provided by covered stores to customers shall contain a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content and be conspicuously labeled with the amount of post-consumer recycled content.
Plastic carryout bags provided by covered stores to customers labeled as "compostable" must be certified as compliant with the ASTM D6400-12 standard specification for labeling of plastics designed to be aerobically composted in municipal or industrial facilities or other standard determined by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. Plastic carryout bags provided by covered stores to customers shall not be labeled as "biodegradable," "degradable," or "decomposable."
Covered stores may provide their customers with reusable carryout bags free of charge for a two-week period from December 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017. In addition, covered stores may provide their customers with reusable carryout bags free of charge for a two-week period each year from December 1 to December 15.
No later than March 1, 2019, and annually thereafter, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and the head of any other department or office designated by the Legislature, shall prepare an annual recycling report that includes information on the progress of single-use carryout bag reduction, including, but not limited to:
The general effectiveness of this article in reducing the use of single-use carryout bags in the County and increasing the use of reusable carryout bags;
The waste- and litter-reduction benefits of this article, including, where practicable, the amount of single-use plastic bags in the waste stream;
The number of notices of violation issued pursuant to this article; and
Any cost savings for the County attributable to single-use carryout bag reduction, such as reduced contamination of local waterways or reduction in flooding or combined sewer overflows.
Covered stores are prohibited from making a charge against, or deduction from, the wages of an employee to offset any penalty addressed against the covered store pursuant to this article.
This article shall be enforced by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in accordance with the provisions of Article II, § 760-200 et seq., of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code.
The Commissioner of the Department of Health Services is hereby authorized and empowered to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to enforce this article.
Any violation of this article shall be punishable by a civil fine of $500 for each.
This article will not impair or supersede any ordinance, resolution or local law enacted by a village or town within the County of Suffolk which prohibits retail stores operating within their jurisdiction from distributing or providing plastic and/or paper bags to their customers.
This article shall be null and void on the day that statewide or federal legislation goes into effect incorporating either the same or substantially similar provisions as are contained in this article, or in the event that a pertinent state or federal administrative agency issues and promulgates regulations preempting such action by the County of Suffolk. The County Legislature may determine via mere resolution whether or not identical or substantially similar statewide legislation has been enacted for the purposes of triggering the provisions of this section.
This article shall apply to all actions occurring on or after the effective date of this article.
This article shall take effect on January 1, 2018.