Americans are drowning in plastic. More specifically, plastic bags. According to the EPA, in 2015 the United States produced over 4 million tons of plastic bags and only about 350,000 tons of those were recycled. Plastic bags often end up in the street gutter, clogging up the drains, blowing through the park, and getting snagged on tree branches. Discarded bags pollute waterways, clog sewers, and negatively affect marine life. The EPA predicts that by 2050–only 31 short years from now–there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans if we keep using plastic bags at our current rate (EPA).

Califorina passed Proposition 67 in 2018, upholding a ban on single-use plastic bags and saw a 72 percent decrease in bag waste. Following California’s success, many cities and states have since enacted a complete plastic bag ban while others have placed recycling conditions and fees on single-use bags to mitigate adverse effects to the environment. Visit Bag the Ban to see your zip code’s ordinances.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR RETAILERS?

State lawmakers have introduced at least 95 bills in 2019 related to plastic bags. Most of these bills would ban or place a fee on plastic bags. Others would preempt local government action or improve bag recycling programs. Bag laws and ordinances vary from city to city and from state to state, but generally include: “any checkout bags provided by retailers to customers must be  a reusable bag or a recyclable paper bag. Retailers must charge a minimum of five cents per checkout bag…the ban applies to all retail establishments that sell or provide merchandise, goods, or materials directly to a customer (NCSL).”

Retailers can offer customers that forget to bring their own bags reusable bags or recyclable paper bags with handles for a nominal fee. Fee notices must be posted within five feet of the checkout location.

ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS

Research cited in the Center for Biological Diversity shows that the average use of a plastic bag is only about 12 minutes. The bag ban is directly related to a rise in popularity of sustainable, eco-friendly and multi-use alternatives made from cotton, canvas, hemp, leather, or jute that have a lifetime use of several years. As such, many retailers have decided to sell their own branded reusable bags made from alternative materials listed above. In practice, the ban on single use plastic bags actually benefit the retailer in several ways: the reusable branded bag is now an advertisement for the retail establishment in addition to showing the retailer’s commitment to the environment.

Navigating these new ordinances can be time consuming. AnnJoy Imports can help you select the packaging and bag options that are right for your business.