NYS Polystyrene Foam and Plastic Bag Laws

Polystyrene Foam Ban

In 2020, New York State adopted the nation's strongest statewide ban of expanded polystyrene, single-use foam food containers, and polystyrene packaging materials known as packing peanuts.  Under the Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban, (link leaves DEC's website) effective January 1, 2022, no covered food service provider or store (retail or wholesale) will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam including bowls, cartons, hinged "clamshell" containers, cups, lids, plates, and trays. In addition, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging (commonly referred to as packing peanuts) in the state. 

This law does NOT apply to:

  • Raw meat, pork, seafood, poultry, or fish sold for the purpose of cooking or preparing off-premises by the customer
  • Prepackaged food filled or sealed prior to receipt at a covered food service provider

Waivers may be available for the following - visit the DEC website:  

  •  Facilities operated by a not-for-profit corporation, federal, state, or local government agency that provides food/meals to food-insecure individuals may apply for a renewable 12-month financial hardship waiver.
  • Covered food service providers that have an annual gross income under $500,000 per location, do not operate 10 or more locations in New York, and are not franchises may apply for a renewable 12-month financial hardship waiver.

For more information, click here for a FoamFreeNewYork Fact Sheet. 

Plastic Bag Recycling Regulations

New York State's Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act has been in effect since January 1, 2009. It requires stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry out bags to customers must establish an "at-store" plastic bag and film plastics recycling program. Stores must make collection bins for plastic bags and film plastic recycling available to customers in a visible, easily accessible location. See the law for additional details.

Plastic bags are NOT acceptable for Mixed Recycling. Click here for a plastic bag and film recycling information card to learn what types of materials can be returned to retailers and the ecopark for recycling.

Single-Use Plastic Bags Ban 

On April 22, 2019 Governor Cuomo signed the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act. The ban on single-use plastic bags in New York went into effect on March 1, 2020, but was not enforced by the NYSDEC until October 19, 2020.  All stores that collect sales tax (retailers, grocery and small businesses) are no longer permitted to distribute plastic bags (other than exempt bags). Plastic bags are still allowed for uncooked meat/fish/poultry, bulk items (produce, candy), sliced or prepared foods, newspapers (delivered), prescription drugs, carryout orders at restaurants/taverns, garment bags, and bags prepackaged for sale to a customer (trash bags, food storage bags). Stores are still required to collect plastic bags and other film plastics from consumers for recycling.

Paper bags are not banned, but cities and counties are authorized to adopt a five-cent paper carry-out bag reduction fee. This means that in these areas, a consumer will be charged 5 cents for each paper carryout bag provided at checkout.  Monroe County did not adopt the paper bag fee, however individual stores may still choose to charge for paper bags.  For more information or to report at plastic bag law violation visit the NYSDEC website here

Plastic bags graphic