Tompkins County Legislature Building

If you’re someone who’s been avoiding the reusable bag wave that has swept across some municipalities over the last few years in an attempt to cut down on unnecessary harmful waste, your days of skipping by without an extra tax appear to be over. 

 The Tompkins County Legislature passed a local law last week that will impose a $.05 fee on paper carryout bags beginning March 1, 2020. The law, according to a press release, 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. 

Beginning March 1, 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.

According to the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force report from 2017, paper bag usage often increases when plastic bags are banned, as the county has already done. This, though, is not actually the ideal outcome of a bag ban; Tompkins County is trying to inspire more people to switch from paper and plastic to reusable bags with the durability to last long times and hold up over multiple uses. 

Revenues collected from the $.05 fee will be directed to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Sixty percent of the revenue will go into the Environmental Protection Fund, while the remaining 40 percent will be returned to Tompkins County for the purpose of purchasing and distributing reusable bags, with priority given to low- and fixed-income communities.

Those seeking more information can contact the Tompkins Recycling and Materials Management agency at (607) 273-6632 or at www.recycletompkins.org

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