County Passes BYO-bag law - BlueStone Press
October 20, 2020

County Passes BYO-bag law

Grocery and hardware stores affected, but restaurants get a pass


Beginning July 15, Ulster County residents will need to bring their own bags to go shopping or pay a 5-cent-per-bag fee for recycled paper bags.

The Ulster County Legislature passed the ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ (BYO Bag) Act and county Executive Michael Hein signed the law Oct. 19.

“Doing away with plastic bags is a very good idea,” said Richard Travers, president of the Rondout Valley Business Association. “Clearly plastic is creating an issue worldwide and something needs to be done to stop it.“

"I voted in favor," said Heidi Haynes, District 18 Ulster County legislator who represents northern Marbletown and much of Hurley.

This makes Ulster the first county in the state to adopt a single-use plastic bag ban, according to a county news release, along with 12 municipalities that have bans.

“I look forward to working together to make this plastic bag ban a reality as we continue to protect our children, our families, and our environment for generations to come,” Hein said in the release.

The release specified that before the law goes into effect, provisions would be added to exempt from the 5-cent-per-bag fee recipients of food stamp and Women, Infants and Children programs.

“I think it’s good to get away from plastic bags,” said Marbletown Supervisor Rich Parete.

Parete said it was about changing the culture, including himself. He added that given that it was done at the county level, it’d affect everyone equally.

“It’s a level playing field for everybody,” he said. “It’s fair.”

Customers will be able to bring their own bags of any type to package their goods. And some plastic bags are still allowed in stores affected by the law, such as produce or meat bags that shoppers might use within the store, before purchasing their items.

Affected businesses include grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, farmers markets, and food service vendors located inside of supermarkets or convenience stores.

However, one group that isn’t included is food-service establishments located outside of supermarkets, or convenience stores.

Manna Jo Green, District 19 Ulster County legislator who represents Rosendale and southern Marbletown, and who voted in favor of the law, explained why restaurants weren't included.

“It is because if somebody buys something from a restaurant and it’s in a container,” Green said, and the container is in a paper bag, the paper bag wouldn’t contain the gravy or the oily material if there were a spill.

“That could really ruin the car upholstery,” Green said.

But, Green hopes restaurants might voluntarily stop using such bags. She chairs the Ulster County Climate Smart Committee, which has created a green business challenge for area businesses. There are seven challenges, she said.

“The seventh action that they can take is reducing or eliminating single-use plastic.”

As for those businesses whose bag ban is involuntary, they do get to keep whatever money they collect from the bag fee, which isn't always the case in bag-fee laws.

Chicago’s 7-cent-per-bag tax went into effect in 2017 and, according to “Skipping the Bag: Assessing the impact of Chicago’s tax on disposable bags,” a study on the tax’s efficacy, the likelihood of a shopper using any disposable bags decreased almost 28 percentage points. Before the tax, the study found 82 percent of consumers used at least one single-use bag per shopping trip.

In Chicago, the 7-cents is split between the retailer (2-cents) and the city (5-cents).

For more information on the new county law, visit


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