A customer's groceries are held in plastic bags at a...

A customer's groceries are held in plastic bags at a Stop & Shop supermarket in West Islip on Jan. 30. Credit: Randee Daddona

Monday begins the enforcement of New York State’s plastic-bag ban — barring single-use, carryout plastic bags from being distributed except under limited circumstances — following a monthslong delay due to the plastic industry's unsuccessful legal challenge.

Since March 1, municipalities have been able to require retailers to charge a customer 5 cents for a paper bag, according to the ban, the Bag Waste Reduction Law, signed April 22, 2019, Earth Day, by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Now, with the law’s full enforcement, the option to mandate the fee continues, although recipients of welfare or food stamps are exempt from being charged.

For the retailer, violating the plastic-ban law would carry a $250 fine for a first offense and a $500 fine for each subsequent offense in the same year.

The ban exempts bags for uncooked food such as meat, fish, seafood, poultry and produce, as well as bags for garments, small hardware items, prescriptions, and carryout food at eateries.

The law took effect March 1, but the state had delayed enforcement as a result of a lawsuit filed in February by a group of packaging companies, bodega owners, and others, with Melville's Poly-Pak Industries — a longtime manufacturer of plastic bags — as a lead plaintiff. In August, a state Supreme Court judge ruled against the challenge.

A representative of Poly-Pak couldn’t be reached Sunday for comment.

The website of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is the law’s enforcer, urges the use of reusable bags, promoting the hashtag "#BYOBagNY" — Bring Your Own Bag.

"Keep reusable bags in your car, or clip folding reusable bags onto your commuting bag or purse so you always have them handy. If you store them near the door or coat closet, you'll be more likely to remember them on the way out," the website says. "Remember that every time you use a reusable bag, you are doing your part to prevent litter and waste."

In a typical year, over 23 billion plastic bags are used in the state, according to the department’s website, which says that the bags harm the environment, getting stuck in trees, littering neighborhoods, floating in waterways, complicating recycling and endangering wildlife.

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