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 baglaws@swalter.com.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your specific situation. S. Walter Packaging does not warrant the accuracy, adequacy or completeness of the information and materials contained in this site or the compliance with any particular federal, state or local laws and expressly disclaims liability for any errors or omissions in the information and materials.