Back in March, a ban on single use plastic bags like the ones you find in grocery stores was supposed to take effect. But the ban has been in a form of legal limbo due to a court challenge. That has frustrated environmental advocates.

"It's as if the law doesn't exist," said Judith Enck, a longtime environmental activist and a former EPA official in the Obama administration. 

What You Need To Know

  • The plastic bag ban remains under a court challenge.

  • Environmental groups are worried about the ban's legal limbo.

  • The DEC says it is focused on educating New Yorkers about using reusable bags.

The ban's full implementation was first delayed in February by the court challenge. 

"And then COVID hit," Enck said. "So the 30-day delay became a 60-day delay and then a 90-day delay."

The ban was first approved in the state budget last year, meant to cut down on plastic bag waste environmental groups say has helped contributed to pollution and climate change.  

Enck wants clarity from the Department of Environmental Conservation on what comes next.

"We very much need the DEC to enforce the law," she said. "I'm not saying they should issue fines and penalties. All I want is a one paragraph statement from the DEC saying the plastic bag ban is the law of the land. You must comply."

The Department of Environmental Conservation in a statement said that for now it is focusing on education surrounding plastic bags. 

"New York's ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect as planned on March 1," the department said in a statement. "Retailers across the state are complying. We have consistently said since the beginning of our outreach campaign that we will focus on education rather than enforcement."

The DEC is also urging New Yorkers to bring reusable bags to the stores and make sure they are washed.