Reusable Bag Ordinance
BAG IT RIGHT
Ordinance 2008 - Effective January 2024
In 2021, the City of Laurel adopted Ordinance No. 1977 prohibiting retail establishments from providing disposal plastic bags to customers at the point of sale. The Ordinance went into effect in January 2022. The expectation behind this legislation was to encourage customers to use sustainable reusable bags. What we found instead is that following the single-use plastic bag ban in the City of Laurel, the share of grocery shoppers using paper bags rose from less than 1% to 68%, while the share using reusable bags rose from 5% to only 14%, and no bag from 7% to 14%. As of result of this information, the City of Laurel has updated its plastic bag ordinance to address the serious upstream environmental impacts that are a result of the manufacture of paper bags and the expense incurred by the retailers as they provided free paper bags at checkout.
This new Ordinance encourages shoppers and patrons to use reusable bags for their groceries and other purchases. As part of the Ordinance, alternate bags like paper bags or reusable bags can be provided, but retailers must charge a minimum of $.10 per bag and retain the entirety of the fee to cover costs. Restaurant carry-out bags are included in the Ordinance.
- On January 1, 2024, a retail establishment shall charge, collect and retain at least ten cents ($.10) for each paper carryout bag that it provides to a customer.
- A reusable carryout bag is defined as a bag with stitched handles that is made of durable cloth, fiber, hemp product or other washable fabric or a durable material suitable for multiple reuses, is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuses, and is not made of plastic film.
- A retail establishment shall post notices that advise customers to bring reusable bags and that a paper bag will be subject to a fee.
- The notices shall be posted at the public entrance to the retail establishment and at each point of sale and shall be in English and Spanish.
- The fee charged shall be paid by the customer.
- The sales receipt shall reflect both the number of bags provided to the customer and the fee collected for the bags.
- Following the rollout, enforcement will be complaint-driven, through on-line reporting or a hot line, and enforced by the City’s Division of Code Enforcement.
For additional information, contact Michele Blair, Environmental Programs Manger at 301-725-5300 ext. 2203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Why did the City make these updates?
To encourage the use of reusable bags or no bags. Following the single-use plastic bag ban in the City of Laurel, the share of grocery shoppers using paper bags rose from less than 1% to 68%, while the share using reusable bags rose from 5% to only 14%, and no bag from 7% to 14%. By requiring retailers to charge at least 10 cents for alternate bags (paper or reusable), we can help reduce the waste and litter caused by single bags.
- When does this Ordinance go into effect?
January 1, 2024
- Why Restrict Single-Use Plastic Bags?
Single-use plastic bags make up a portion of local litter as many bags end up in our trees, streets, parks, and waterways, blocking storm drains and polluting our environment. Unfortunately, according to the EPA, only about 3% of single-use plastic bags are recycled nationwide. Further, single-use plastic bags are not accepted in the City’s recycling program due to Prince George’s County restrictions from their Single-Stream Recycling Program and Materials Recycling Facility which receives all the City’s recyclable materials.
- Why charge for Paper Bags?
The charge for paper bags reduces the demand for them and is an incentive for patrons to bring their own reusable bags. The manufacture of paper bags has serious upstream environmental impacts, and they are far more expensive than single-use plastic bags. Providing them free of charge at checkout in such large numbers may increase retailer overhead, which may result in higher prices.
- Is this a Tax?
No. The City doesn't collect any fees from this Ordinance.
- How does this Ordinance Work?
This new Ordinance encourages shoppers and patrons to use reusable bags for their groceries and other purchases. As part of the Ordinance, alternate bags like paper bags or reusable bags can be provided, but retailers must charge a minimum of $.10 per bag and retain the entirety of the fee to cover costs. Restaurant carry-out bags are included in the Ordinance. There are exemptions to this law, like bulk food, meat, ice, or produce packaging. For a full list of exemptions, please see the next FAQ.
- Are there any Exemptions?
Exemptions from the City's Ordinance No. 2008 include bags that:
- Package bulk items: including produce (fruit and vegetables), nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items.
- Contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, or fish, regardless of packaging.
- Contain or wrap flowers, potted plants, or other damp items.
- Contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods.
- Contain garments or dry-cleaned clothes, including suits, jacket, and dresses.
- Contain ice.
- Plastic bags sold in packages containing plastic bags.
- Plastic bag provided by the retail establishment to take live fish, insects, mollusks, or crustaceans away from the establishment.
- Are Restaurant Carry-Out bags included in the Ordinance?
Yes. Ordinance No. 2008 will restrict the use of non-reusable plastic bags given or received at the point of purchase by City retailers and restaurants effective January 1, 2024.
- How will the Ordinance be enforced?
Following the rollout, enforcement will be complaint-driven, through online reporting or a hot line, and enforced by the City’s Department of Fire Marshal and Permit Services. Community members can report non-compliance via the City’s reporting system available at MyLaurel MD app.
- What qualifies as a “Reusable Bag”?
A bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is made of:
- Cloth or other washable fabric.
- A durable material suitable for multiple re-use that is not made of plastic film.
- I'm a business owner and need help!
Contact our Environmental Programs Manager, Michele Blair at the Green Living email link here.