Reduce single-use plastic checkout bags

Columbia County considers a proposal to reduce plastic

December 5, 2018

Plastic production causes huge problems. Then once it is around, it is around forever and leeches into our water and food system.

Single-use plastic checkout bags present a number of problems.

  • Derived from fossil fuels
  • A source of litter on land and in waterways
  • Harmful to habitats and wildlife
  • Not biodegradable

Bag bans and fees have led to major reductions in plastic bag use.

Policy Options

Bans and Fees

Most legislation aimed at reducing single-use checkout bags uses a ban and/or a fee on paper and plastic bags.

  • Ban use of plastic and institute a fee for paper
  • Institute a fee for plastic and paper, no ban
  • Fees typically range from $.03 to $.10 per bag, bag use reduction rate is proportional to the amount of the fee

Targeting Plastic

The ban or fee on plastic focuses on single-use checkout bags. It does not include food packaging or plastic bags for fresh produce.

Widespread Examples

Great Barrington, Dutchess County, and Ulster County are among many areas that have banned or instituted a fine on checkout plastic bags.

  • About 25 countries have banned single-use plastic bags and another 25 have instituted fees
  • In the US, bans on the distribution of single-use plastic bags exist in nearly 100 cities, towns, and municipalities across the country—fees exist in almost 30 (as of March 2017).
  • In New York State, at least 14 cities, towns, or villages have enacted a plastic bag ban or fee.

Learn more from the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report


If passed, it is important that we ensure that consumers and retailers are prepared. In particular, we need to ensure that everyone has easy access to reusable bags.

Best practices include:

  • Conducting educational campaigns before, during, and after the ordinance is enacted.
  • Providing a free reusable bag.
  • Incorporating a phase-in period of not less than eight months to allow enough time to educate consumers, establish any required administrative systems, and if a ban is implemented, to enable retailers to phase out their existing stock of plastic bags.

What do you think about a plastic bag ban? Let me know.