Erie BYOBag - Single Use Bag Pollution

Erie County has been a leader in protecting our Great Lakes for decades.  Erie County worked to reduce plastic pollution through its local ban on microbeads, which ultimately helped to create the impetus for a federal law. The Erie County Environmental Management Council (ECEMC), a volunteer group that advises Erie County government on environmental issues, has worked with Erie County on reducing single-use plastics including banning plastic shopping bags. See below for the March 1, 2020 NYS Plastic Ban Law.

In response to the ECEMC’s recommendation, the County Executive and the Department of Environment and Planning are working with several community partners to raise awareness about this issue and promote possible solutions. 

Bird with single-use bagWhy Single Use Bags are a Problem

  • Both plastic and paper bags require vast amounts of our natural resources to manufacture and to transport.  
  • Fish and wildlife consume plastic pieces, mistaking them for food, or become ensnared in plastic debris.
  • Recent studies have found high levels of plastics in the Great Lakes, and thousands of plastic bags are being found on Great Lakes beaches.
  • Litter is not only costly to clean up but has been shown to reduce property values and influence tourism.
  • Flooding can be caused when litter, such as single use bags, clog storm drains.

The simplest solution to reduce single-use bag pollution is to:

plastic bag pollution

  • Remember to bring your own reusable bag(s) to the store.
  • And return your bags back to the store for recycling – in general, single-use plastic bags are not accepted in curbside recycling.  
  • Get involved in the conversation, Tweet your photo or comment about single-bag pollution at #ERIEBYOBag
  • Please add your name to our mailing/volunteer list

The 2020 NYS Plastic Ban law:

Starting March 1, 2020, all plastic carryout bags (other than an exempt bag) are banned from distribution by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax.  There are excemptions as to the types of stores and bags that are not covered under this law, so if you wish to learn more, we recomend you visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for deatails: <<NYSDEC BYOBag>>

If you have questions please email:



Our partners are helping to educate the public on the importance of reusable bags and proper recycling:


Upcoming Events

No upcomming events scheduled, but if you are interested in encouraging others to BYOBag (bring their own bag), contact us at

Make your Own Bag

You can make your own bag from an old t-shirt. This is a great project for scout troops, church groups, or school clubs. 

Check out this video to make a reusable shopping bag from an old t-shirt 

or click the images below for a downloadable PDF courtesy of the Matt Urban Hope Center!


We will be bringing our "Make Your Own Bag" table to events throughout Erie County. 
If you want to bring the display to your event, contact us at



Spread the Word 

To stay informed and participate in our ongoing public discussion that focuses on finding a solution to plastic pollution, be sure to follow @ErieBYObag ( on Twitter.

Use the hashtag #ErieBYObag to:

• Respond to tweets
• Share your photos of bag litter
• Share photos of your reusable bags in action
• Take a picture with Terra and share it!
• Make suggestions
• Continue the dialogue  

View the pictures!

In the Media

Student Projects

 What are other communities doing to address this issue?

Laws intended to reduce single-use bags are no longer cutting edge; there are more than 150 such laws in the United States. New York City recently passed an anti-litter legislation and a state-wide law was passed in California. Moreover, there are many laws addressing this porblem throughout the world.

It is important to note that the communities with fees and/or bans have resulted in significant decreases in bag pollution (60 - 90%). 



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Last updated: January 21, 2020 10:52am