Plastic Pollution, Bag Bans
October 10 2019

The Latest Plastic Bag Laws and Maps

by Jennie Romer

Surfrider Foundation has increasingly been part of local and state bag laws over the years to help reduce a top form of single-use plastic pollution. PlasticBagLaws.org has updated their bag maps and fact sheet. There are 471 local plastic bag ordinances that have been adopted in 28 states, which means 58 new ordinances were passed since May.  The bigger news if that the number of states with statewide plastic bag laws has increased significantly. California was once the only state with a uniform bag reduction law. Now this list includes Oregon, New York, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and Delaware. 

Surfrider Foundation has been actively fighting against local preemption for the past five years. Preemption is a plastics industry tactic that undermines progressive plastic bag regulation. PlasticBagLaws.org’s “Shades of Preemption” map illustrates the existing preemption laws as well as states where preemption laws are pending, and states were preemption repeal laws have been introduced. Fourteen preemption laws are now in place, some of which only block plastic bag laws and some of which block all laws relating to auxillary containers (bags, foam foodware, bottles, etc). No new preemption laws were adopted since the last map update in May. 

PlasticBagLaws.org Preemption Map

Surfrider Foundation and PlasticBagLaws.org partnered on tracking state preemption on Grassroots Change’s Preemption Watch map. Grassroots Change is an organization that promotes public health movements in local communities. Their state-by-state maps give activists an in-depth, real time look at preemption issues across the nation.

Preemption Watch Map

The Breakdown of All Seven Statewide Bag Laws

Many of the new statewide plastic bag laws were in the northeast, plus Oregon. Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Connecticut, and Oregon all passed plastic bag legislation this summer.

Statewide bag laws that fully align with Surfrider Foundation’s policy recommendations (mandatory fee on all available checkout bags):

CALIFORNIA (adopted 2014, effective 2016)

  • Ban on plastic bags less than 2.25 mils 
  • Mandatory minimum 10-cent fee on all available carryout bags (paper, reusable, compostable plastic)
  • Applies to retailers, restaurants may be addressed locally

OREGON (adopted 2019, effective January 1, 2020)

  • Ban on plastic bags under 4.0 mils
  • Mandatory 5-cent fee on all available carryout bags (paper, reusable)
  • Applies to retailers and restaurants

MAINE (adopted 2019, effective April 22, 2020)

  • Ban on plastic bags under 4.0 mils
  • Mandatory 5-cent fee on all available carryout bags (paper, reusable)
  • Applies to retailers and restaurants

Statewide bag laws that do not fully align with Surfrider Foundation’s policy recommendations (no mandatory fee on all available checkout bags):

NEW YORK (part of 2019 state budget, effective March 1, 2020)

  • Ban on all plastic carryout bags made from plastic film 
  • No mandatory fee component, municipalities may opt-in to 5-cent flat paper bag fee
  • Law applies to retailers, preempts restaurants from regulation
  • Read more about the issues with New York's bill here

VERMONT (adopted 2019, effective July 1, 2020)

  • Ban on plastic bags other than polypropylene bags with stitched handles
  • Mandatory 10-cent fee on paper bags, no fee mandated for reusable bags
  • Applies to retailers and restaurants

DELAWARE (adopted 2018, effective January 1, 2021)

  • Ban on plastic carryout bags less than 2.25 mils 
  • No mandatory fee component on paper bags or reusable bags
  • Law applies to large retailers

CONNECTICUT [at p. 532 of budget] (adopted 2019, fee effective August 1st 2019, ban effective July 21, 2021)

  • Mandatory minimum 10-cent fee on all film plastic bags (Aug 2019-Jul 2021)
  • Ban on plastic bags under 4.0 mils (Jul 2021)
  • No mandatory fee on paper or reusable carryout bags

HAWAII*

Hawaii does not have a statewide plastic bag law, but each county has a law in place.