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Tompkins Co. Legislature adopts five cent fee on paper bags

The Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday evening passed a local law that will impose a 5 cent fee on paper bags.

That new law takes effect on March 1, 2020. The local law will act in conjunction with New York State’s Bag Waste Reduction Act, which bans the distribution of certain types of single-use plastic bags from retail establishments. The adoption vote, following a public hearing, was unanimous (Legislators Dan Klein and Glenn Morey were excused.)

According to the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force report from 2017, the use of paper carryout bags often increases in jurisdictions that have enacted a plastic bag ban. However, the best environmental outcomes are achieved when consumers switch to durable, reusable bags which they then use repeatedly. The $.05 fee is intended to incentivize the use of reusable bags over single-use paper carryout bags.

Beginning March 1st, 2020, there will be a $.05 fee applied to each paper carryout bag provided to customers of retail establishments in Tompkins County. Some types of paper bags are exempt from this fee such as paper bags used solely to package bulk food items or medicine. The fee will not apply to customers who are SNAP or WIC recipients.

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