Defining the Carryout Bag

How do municipalities define an acceptable carryout bag?  Well, it isn’t by what it’s made from…paper, plastic or cloth!

With all the single-use bag legislation popping up, it’s enough to make a retailer want to pull out their hair.  All you want to do is give your customer a convenient way to protect and transport their new purchase while advertising your brand.  How do you know what type of bag to supply your customer?  Each municipality with single-use bag legislation offers their own definition of a reusable bag, single-use carryout bag and recyclable paper bag.  Let’s break down some of the commonalities of these bag definitions.

Reusable Bag.  The reusable carryout bag has a few key attributes that usually show up in municipal definitions.  These of course, may differ from municipality to municipality.


  • A bag with handles
  • Specifically designed and manufactured for reuse
  • Material:  cloth, other washable fabric or plastic at least 2.25 mil thick.
  • Minimum life time capacity of 125 or more uses.

Here are the specifications that define the minimum life requirement:

  • Carry 22 or more pounds over a distance of at least 175 feet
  • Minimum volume capacity of at least 15 liters
  • Shall not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts
  • Machine washable or is made from material that can be cleaned or disinfected.

Recyclable Paper Bag.  Here are the key requirements that show up in municipal definitions.

  • 100% recyclable
  • 40% minimum Post-Consumer Recycled Material (PCW)
  • No old growth fiber
  • Is accepted for recycling in curbside programs in that municipality

Single-Use Bag.  A bag, other than a reusable bag or recycled bag, provided at the checkout stand, cash register, point of sale or point of departure for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of an establishment.

Single-use bags are the focus of legislation.  However, as a retailer you still have many choices on how your customer will carry out your product.  Whether the mode of transportation is plastic, paper, cloth, or some other durable material, WE ARE HERE TO HELP.  Our retail packaging specialists can help you navigate these definitions in the municipalities you sell into and select the best packaging for your stores.  We hope that you will contact us by phone at 888-429-5673 or via email at

Bag Ban Confusion?

There seems to be a new single-use bag ban or ordinance every day, increasing the number of cities that have adopted single use bag bans this year to 42, and the total number of single use bag bans in the U.S. to 79 – nearly two-thirds of them in California.

In addition, Los Angeles – the nation’s second largest city, with a population of 4 million – is set to join that group. Two other communities Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md. have fees on single use bags handed out at carryout.

Single use bag bans are now in place in 5 of the 29 largest cities in the United States – San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, Seattle and Portland. The nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston, is currently considering a single use bag ban proposal.

Also weighing a decision on single use bags is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who has a petition urging him not to sign a bill that that passed in the legislature earlier this summer that would mandate single use plastic bag recycling and bar all cities in the state except for Chicago from banning single use plastic carryout bags.

But don’t worry if you’re confused about what’s banned and where, because the details are indeed confusing. These bans, fees and taxes are a patchwork of regulations, with differing standards. It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you stand on, the fact is new single use bag regulations are popping up everywhere, and WE ARE HERE TO HELP.  Our retail packaging specialists can help you navigate these regulations and select the best packaging for your stores.  We hope that you will contact us by phone at 888-429-5673 or via email at

Look for our next blog when we dive into the qualifications of a single use bag vs. reusable bag!