Questions and Answers


Q: Why do we need a retail shopping bag ordinance?

A: The ordinance is part of a larger educational campaign to encourage the use of reusable bags, thereby contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment.

Single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags are a major source of litter and pollution in our environment. These bags do not biodegrade, are extremely difficult to recycle and often are only “reused” once before being discarded. Most are never used more than once to transport goods from a store.

Single-use paper bags have their own environmental problems, such as the amount of energy needed to produce, transport and recycle them.


Q: Are there countries that have already such a ban?

A: Yes, most European countries, South Africa, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tunisia, China, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Australia, Mexico


Q: Are there states in the USA with a bag bans?

A: California and Hawaii are the only states in the USA with a state wide bans


Q: What about other towns and cities?

A: There are hundreds of towns and municipalities in the USA with local bans


Q: Are there towns in the Westchester that have local bans?

A: Yes, Hastings, Chappaqua, Millwood, Armonk and Rye.


Q: What do stores have to say about the ban?

A: Many store managers and employees share our concern about the environment. There is no proof of customer decline after a ban. In fact, a bag ban saves stores money.


Q: Why is there a charge for take-out bags?

A: The 10-cent fee will encourage residents to bring their own bags. Studies show that bag fees reduce single-use bag usage. The merchants will keep the 10-cent fee to offset any bag costs.


Q: Why were grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores selected for the 10-cent paper bag fee?

A: These stores were selected since they generate the most bags; also this is consistent with many ordinances around the country. Restaurants, delis or any other business that receives 90% or more of its revenue from the sale of prepared food to be eaten on or off its premises are not required to charge the 10-cent paper bag fee


Q: What type of paper bags must be provided by those stores subject to the 10-cent paper bag fee?

A: The requirements are below:

The recycled paper bag must contain a minimum of 40 percent postconsumer materials;

An eight pound-rated or smaller recycled paper bag shall contain a minimum of 20 percent postconsumer material;

The recycled paper bag is accepted for curbside recycling

The recycled paper bag is capable of composting, consistent with the timeline and specifications of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard D6400, as published in September 2004; and

Printed on the recycled paper bag are the percentage of postconsumer material content and the word “Recyclable.”


Q: Will merchants have any help with the transition?

A: Yes we will work together with the stores and the town until after the implementation. We will als make sure that customers will have acces to free reusable bags if needed.


Q: Can retailers just “eat the cost” of paper bags and not charge their customers?

A: No. The minimum 10-cent charge must be collected. It is meant to be a reminder to customers to shop with reusable bags, and for that reason the total cost of recyclable paper bags sold must be shown on the customer’s sales receipt.


Q: Our store currently offers a discount to customers that bring in their own bags. Can we continue to do that?

A: Yes.


Q: How will this ordinance be enforced?

A: Like any other ordinance it is up to the residents and the towns to check the enforcement of the ban.

But since we try to get everybody aboard voluntarily, the ordinance is more a symbolic measure.


Q: The Town of Bedford Bedford recycles the Single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags and some grocery stores collect them as well. Isn’t that easier?

A: Even recycled, these plastic bags have little to no value. The collection and transport of the bags will further burden the environment. To make good new plastic out of old bags requires yet another process with additional chemicals.


Q: Many of the single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags aren’t made of oil but gas, so how do they contribute to climate change?

A: It is true, many of the single use bags aren't made of pertroleum, like most plastics, and are less polluting then many other types of plastic. The problem with the bags is the quantity of bags that we are using and also the fact that these bags are completely unnecessary.


Q: Don’t the single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags create useful energy in an incinerator?

A: Most single used bags end up in landfills or worse. Yet when they happen to be collected for burning they can create some energy. Only the newer more advanced incinerators burn plastic in lesser polluting ways


Q: Aren’t there other things more important for the environment to worry about?

A: Yes there are more important things, like transportation or agriculture. Yet, the plastic bags are an easy do-able way to make a a small but significant difference


Q: Do reusable bags not use much more energy to create?

A: That depends on the material, and usage. If you want to find a 'guilt free' solution you can buy a second hand bag at a thrift store, or come and make your own bag, from recycled fabrics (check the Community Center of Northern Westchester).


Q: Are we putting people out of jobs with our reusable bags?

A: No, just like solar energy replaces coal, we need people to make reusable bags, sales people people who start repairing bags etc.


Q: Why isn’t recycling a good option?

A: Because plastic bags are not really profitable to recycle. The recycling process requires energy and chemicals as well.


Q: I use the single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags at home for other purposes. What should I do now?

A: There will still be plastic bags used for packaging, dry cleaning, pet food, take out etc. Try to reuse those as liners. Recyclables can be discarded without being bagged. In fact we had garbage haulers before plastic bags excisted.


Q: Why can take out restaurants and boutiques still use the single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags?

A: because their contribution is much less than that of groceries. Yet, we hope that people will start using their reusable bag at thes vendor as well.


Q: Why can’t we leave it up to the stores to make their own policy, in stead of having the government involved

A: Although we are talking about an ordinance, we will only move ahead when every grocery store owner is on board. We are not trying to force store owners to do this, we think it is a decicion in everyone's interest.


Q: What about biodegradable and compostable plastic bags?

A: First of all, most compostable plastic requires commercial composting, so putting compostable bags in your backyard compost often doesn't work. In a landfill these bags will not compost either, and if these bags mix with recyclable bags they significantly reduce the quality of the new plastic. Biodegradable bags are in a way even worse. Biodegradable plastics have added chemicals that makes the plastics, after contact with light or water, break into smaller fragments. itt looks like the plastic has disappeared, but in fact, little fragments of the plastic remain in the environment. Again, as with the compostable bags, biodegradable bags can mess up the recycling process. Not a good idea.

If you do like the idea of using compostable bags, read the label and make sure your bags are suitable for backyard composting, or bring them to a commercial composting business.