Winter 2020 Policy Update



Since our last policy briefing in Summer 2019, around the world a number of plastic bans have been signed into law or gone into effect including:

  • Bans on single-use plastic bags

  • Bans on single-use plastics

  • Bans on Styrofoam (polystyrene)

Importantly, as the plastic bans spread, the plastic industry has gone on the offensive, lobbying for bans on bans. One such ban on bans passed the Ohio House in December.


In addition, a key question to ask when we see these single-use plastics bans is what material will replace plastic. We hope that instead of swapping one type of single-use material for another type of single- use material, places affected by these laws will instead switch to reusables.


There is also momentum for federal waste legislation, including:

  • Regulation of the forever chemical PFAS

  • Zero waste act

  • Standardization of food expiration labels

  • We hope to see movement there in the next year.


If you live in New York State or City, below is the newly passed waste legislation that you need to know about:

  • Plastic bag ban, starting in March 2020

  • Paint recycling program, starting in early 2021

  • Donation of excess food and recycling of food scraps, starting January 1, 2022

  • Commercial waste zones. Contracts will be awarded in 2021 and the hauler transitions will occur through 2022

  • Additional laws regulating the waste industry through the Business Integrity Commission (BIC), effective since November 2019

New York- New York City & State

To find out how these new laws, especially New York State's transformational food donation & recycling act and New York City's historic commercial waste zones, will affect your company, keep reading.


NY State Plastic Bag Ban

Effective: March 1, 2020

Starting this March, single-use plastic bags will be banned across NY State.

In addition, certain counties and cities (including NYC) will charge a 5-cent fee on single-use bags, with 40% of the revenue supporting local programs to buy reusable bags for low and fixed income consumers and 60% of the revenue supporting programs in the State’s Environmental Protection Fund.

The single-use plastic bag ban does not apply to food takeout bags used by restaurants, bags used to wrap deli or meat counter products, garment bags, newspaper bags, and bags sold in bulk (i.e. trash bags).


In addition, those who receive SNAP or WIC benefits are exempted from the 5-cent fee in places that opt in.


New York became the third state to ban single-use plastic bags, after California and Hawaii.

Following New York, five additional states enacted a single- use plastic bag ban (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont).


NY State Post Consumer Paint Recycling Program

Effective: early 2021

New York became the 10th state to enact a paint recycling program, which will allow individuals and businesses to drop off excess paint at convenient locations for reuse or proper disposal.

Before, NY’s local governments had to collect the paint and responsibly dispose of it, costing taxpayers around $25 million annually. This bill shifts the cost of disposal to the manufacturers and sellers of paint.


The other states that already have “Paint Stewardship Programs” are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Since implementing its program in July 2010, Oregon has collected and recycled over 1,000,000 gallons of paint.


NY State Donation of Excess Food and Recycling of Food Scraps

Effective: January 1, 2022

All places that generate 4,000+ lb of excess food per week (such as supermarkets, colleges, and hospitals, with exceptions for hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities, and primary schools) must donate edible items to hunger-relief organizations and recycle (compost or anaerobically digest) the rest. The food recycling provision only applies if the location is within 25 miles of a compost or anaerobic digestion facility.


Donating food and goods on Columbia University's campus


The NRDC notes that this law does a number of valuable things:

  • Makes food donation the norm rather than the exception

  • Follows the EPA’s food rescue hierarchy by prioritizing food donation over food recycling

  • Requires donors to report the number of pounds that they donate each year

  • Will keep 250,000 + lb of food from going to landfills / incinerators each year

This law excludes NYC since it already has its own local organics recycling law, which encompasses more establishments.


NYC Commercial Waste Zones Overview

Timeline: carters will bid for contacts in May 2020, contracts will be awarded in 2021, and the transitions will then occur over a year (into 2022)


This bill overhauls NYC’s commercial waste industry:

  • NYC is now divided into at least 20 commercial waste zones

  • Each zone will be serviced by three hauling companies. These hauling companies are in turn able to subcontract with up to two designated carters in each zone

  • No hauling company can operate in more than 15 zones

  • Separately, there will be five citywide contracts for containerized service (i.e. compactors or dumpsters used by large buildings like hospitals)

  • Once the contracts are awarded, they will be valid for 10 years

  • Haulers cannot refuse to service customers in their zone

Sustainability initiatives included in the bill:

  • Haulers must offer organics (i.e. composting) collection. Organics and recycle must be less expensive than trash.

  • Haulers must offer third-party waste audit services to all customers.

  • Haulers must try to use zero-emission vehicles with the goal of using 50% zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 and 100% by 2040

Safety initiatives included in the bill:

  • Haulers must provide 40+ hours of worker safety training to all vehicle operators and helpers and 8 hours to all other employees

Pricing transparency included in the bill:

  • There is now a rate floor to prevent hauling companies from offering low rates by underpaying its workers

  • The city can also create a rate ceiling to prevent overcharging

  • Haulers must provide written service agreements to all of their customers and an itemized monthly bill if requested

The commercial waste zones excludes certain waste streams including:

  • Construction and demolition (C&D) debris Hazardous or radioactive waste

  • Medical waste

  • Electronic waste

  • Textiles

  • Yard waste collected by landscapers

  • Waste collected by a one-time, on-call bulk waste removal service

  • Grease

  • Papers collected for the purposes of shredding or destruction

  • Waste that is collected by a micro-hauler


This legislation is based on years of research and debate. In October 2015, DSNY studied the current commercial waste collection system, and found that it is highly inefficient. This new system is expected to improve safety and reduce pollution and traffic.


According to the study completed, the zoning system will:

  • Reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) between 49% and 68%, with the largest decreases occurring in Manhattan and the Bronx

  • Reduce harmful air emissions substantially, including a potential reduction of 42% - 64% in greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of 34% - 62% in criteria air pollutants, which are linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses

  • Decrease the waste cost for small customers, which pay approximately 38% more than larger customers for their trash removal, largely because there is little transparency in rates and because smaller customers have reduced bargaining power

  • Reduced traffic congestion

  • Reduce nighttime noise associated with duplicative collections

  • Reduce diesel fuel oil consumption by 3.5 million gallons per year

  • Reduce roadway wear and tear

Two bills were passed to regulate the commercial waste industry in NYC:


Regulating the trade waste industry Effective: November 2019

The bill adds enforcement of environmental, safety and health standards to the powers and duties of the Business Integrity Commission (BIC). It also adds violation of law relating to the safety of the public to the reasons a trade waste license could be suspended.


Fines for unreported employees Effective: October 2019

BIC must fine trade waste companies between $1,000 - $10,000 for each individual working for the company who is not reported.


Appendix I: Proposed Legislation in New York


New York State:

Expansion of the bottle bill

Ban on polystyrene / Styrofoam (NYC already banned Styrofoam, effective of January 2019)

Straws only on request Ban on small toiletry bottles at hotels

Requirement that single-use bottles to contain at least 75% recycled content

Oyster shell recycling tax credit

Tobacco product waste reduction


New York City:

Expansion of organics recycling (i.e. composting)

Single-use utensils only on request

Support for reusable containers (requires food service establishments to accept customers’ reusable containers if they are clean and suitable)


Appendix II: Plastic Bag Bans


Ban on single-use plastic bags:

Thailand started in January 2020, leading to viral images of shoppers coming up with creative alternatives.

Oregon started in January 2020, New York starting in March 2020, Maine starting in April 2020, Vermont starting in July 2020, Philadelphia, PA starting in July 2020, Connecticut starting in July 2021


Ban on single-use plastics:

Vermont starting in July 2020 The EU starting in 2021 Honolulu, Hawaii over the next two years


Ban on Styrofoam (Polystyrene):

Vermont starting in July 2020 Portsmouth, NH starting at the end of 2020, Maine starting in January 2021

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