UPDATED: March 30, 2020

STATE GROCERY STORE-SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS (e.g.hours of operation, limits on number of customers in store)
  • Massachusetts: The Public Health Commissioner issued a number of directives for grocery stores and pharmacies to follow, including providing alternative hours at least one hour every day for adults 60 years and older; a list of strategies stores must deploy to reduce COVID-19 exposure for their customers and employees; providing sufficient time each evening to allow for stores to be properly sanitized and restocked; prohibiting employees from bagging retail products if reusable checkout bags are used and prohibiting customers from using reusable checkout bags until further notice; allowing stores to use recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags even in jurisdictions that have restricted or prohibited them; and prohibiting retailers from assessing a charge for recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags. (Full Order Available Here).     
  • Oregon Executive Order 20-12 requires social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. The operation of retail business is prohibited unless the business designates an employee or officer to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing protocols. The Order exempts grocery stores from these requirements, but stores are encouraged to implement them to the best of their ability. As this exemption could be removed any day, Northwest Grocers Association recommends members begin putting procedures in place to comply with the requirements. (Public Health Executive Order 20-12 Employer Responsibilities.) 
  • Pennsylvania: The state Dept. of Agriculture has issued the following guidance:
  • Rhode Island : The Dept. of Business Regulation issued Guidelines for Retail and Grocers, including exclusive hours for at-risk populations, as well as requiring that stores allow no more than 20 percent of stated fire capacity in the store at a time and require staff to count the number of customers entering and exiting the store and to enforce limits. (Full Guidance Available Here

Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont have suspended enforcement of their state bottle bills.


Arizona: Executive Order 2020-12 prohibits counties, cities and towns from issuing any order, rule or regulation that restricts or prohibits any person from performing any function designated by either the Governor, the Director of the Department of Health Services, or the Division of Emergency Management as an essential function during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Any local order restricting persons from leaving their home must be consistent with advice from the Health Services Department. 

New Jersey: Executive Order No. 108 invalidates any county or municipal restriction that in any way will or might conflict with any of the provisions of Executive Order No. 107.  Municipalities or counties cannot 1) make any additions to or deletions from the list of essential retail businesses; 2) impose any additional limitations on businesses beyond the Governor's Order; 3) impose any additional density or social distancing requirements; or 4) impose any additional restrictions on freedom of movement.  The only exceptions are two categories over which municipalities or counties may impose any additional restrictions: 1) online marketplaces for arranging or offering lodging and 2) municipal or county parks.

Oregon: Executive Order No. 20-12 is effective statewide. "Any law, ordinances, rules and orders shall be inoperative to the extend that they are inconsistent with this exercise of the Governor's emergency powers. 


Although CDC has chosen not to weigh in on the issue of reusable bag sanitation, FMI's Food Safety Team has guidance available on the topic. 

At the state level, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont's latest executive order temporarily suspends certain state statutes in order to suspend any tax on single-use plastic checkout bags at grocery stores and other retail businesses. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has ordered a prohibition of reusable bags, all local plastic bag bans lifted and no charging for paper or plastic. Massachusetts Food Association submitted this letter to the Governor's Office requesting a suspension of local plastic bag bans, which could be used as a template for similar actions in other states. Meanwhile, the Maine Legislature has passed and the Governor has signed emergency legislation delaying the effective date of state's single-use plastic bag ban from April 22, 2020 to January 15, 2021. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced a further delay in enforcement of the state's plastic bag ban until May 15, 2020. Finally, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu issued an Executive Order requiring grocers and retail stores to temporarily transition to use of only single use paper or plastic bags as soon as feasibly possible.

 According to research by FMI and the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, the following local jurisdictions have suspended or delayed their bag bans or fees. 


  • Homer: On March 25, 2020, KBBI reported that Homer is suspending its plastic bag ban. 


  • Denver: Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association reports the City of Denver and the City Council has committed - when the opportunity presents itself - to delay  implementation of the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021.  


  • Darien: On March 25First Selectman Jayme Stevenson ordered a stay of enforcement of the town’s ordinance regarding paper and plastic checkout bags ordinance.
  • StamfordCity of Stamford tweeted that by order of the mayor, Stamford’s plastic bag ban is suspended until further notice.


  • EdwardsvilleRiver Bender  (Edwardsville, Ill.) reported that the Edwardsville City Council decided to postpone the plastic bag ban for at least a month. The council plans to reassess the issue at a later meeting, stating that “now just isn’t the best time to start placing additional charges onto the public.”


  • Damariscotta: Lincoln County News reported that Town Manager Matt Lutkus declared an emergency exemption to the town’s ban on plastic bags to allow restaurants and other businesses to resume use of single-use plastic bags for pick-up service in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Portland: City of Portland announced that Portland City Manager Jon Jennings issued an emergency proclamation on Friday, March 20, 2020 that exempts stores from having to charge the five-cent fee for single-use carry out shopping bags. The proclamation is in place until April 30, 2020 and is in response to the spread of COVID-19. The city is encouraging shoppers to not use their reusable bags during this time and asks that stores make single-use bags readily available. 
  • Waterville: 
    Morning Sentinel reported that the City Council approved a recommendation to suspend the city’s plastic bag ban until Jan. 1. The ban prohibits stores of 10,000-square-feet and larger from dispensing single-use plastic bags with purchases. Another vote is required to finalize that decision.


  • Boston: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on March 25 issued a temporary order that allows plastic bag use in the city for “essential businesses” during the public health emergency of COVID-19. Essential businesses include grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail stores that sell food and beverages (including liquor stores). The order will be in effect until the last day of the Public Health Emergency declared by the Boston Public Health Commission.  
  • Brookline (polystyrene): The City tweeted that to ease the burden of new restrictions placed on restaurants and eateries, the town suspended its styrofoam container ban, effective immediately.
  • Cambridge: WHDH reported that Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and Commissioner of Public Health Assaad J. Sayah, MD, announced Monday a temporary order that restricts customers at essential retail establishments from using reusable bags. Customers will not face fees for using retail establishment bags during this time
  • WorcesterPatch   (Worcester, Mass.) reported that the city’s plastic bag ban has been delayed from April 1 until July 1. 


  • Duluth: Minnesota Grocers Association reports the Duluth City Council voted unanimously to move the effective date of the plastic bag fee to January 1, 2021.  The ordinance was originally set go into effect on April 1

New Jersey

  • Stafford Township: The SandPaper (Stafford Township, N.J.) reported that the mayor and police chief signed a state-of-emergency proclamation that included a directive to temporarily lift the single-use plastic bag ban. 


  • Bexley: Mayor of Bexley, Ohio issued an Executive Order temporarily lifting the City's single-use plastic ban and directing residents to clean reusable bags between uses.

Rhode Island

  • East GreenwichEast Greenwich News (East Greenwich, R.I.) reported that Town Manager Andrew Nota announced Wednesday he was easing the ban on plastic bags that was enacted in December in an effort to support the increased take-out food options.

South Carolina

  • Charleston: At an emergency meeting, the Charleston City Council passed an emergency ordinance to suspend the enforcement of the city’s code pertaining to environmentally acceptable packaging and products (plastic bag ban) for 60 days. ( Official City News Release).


  • Burien: On March 24, 2020, the Burien City Council temporarily suspended the plastic bag ban and paper bag fees. The ban on single-use carryout plastic bags will go back into effect once the Burien City Manager’s emergency proclamation expires. 
  • Issaquah: City of Issaquah  reported that Mayor Mary Lou Pauly signed Proclamations of Emergency to suspend the pass-through charge on recycled paper bags.
  • Kenmore: City of Kenmore is suspending its plastic bag ban and 5-cent bag fee. The proclamation also prohibits the use of reusable bags in the city. The suspension will last until April 30, 2020, “unless the City Manager determines an extension is necessary for public health.”
  • Kent: I Love Kent reported that Kent Mayor Dana Ralph announced on Friday, Mar. 20, 2020 that the city’s plastic bag ban has been suspended temporarily, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Lacey: The Olympian (Lacey, Wash.) reported that after learning that some stores in Lacey are no longer allowing people to use reusable bags, Mayor Andy Ryder suggested to the City Council that they suspend the 5-cent paper bag fee. The article notes that the council will hear a resolution next week on temporarily suspending the bag fee.
  • Newton: Wicked Local (Newton, Mass.) reported that Commissioner of Health and Human Services Deborah Youngblood signed an emergency protocol suspending enforcement of the plastic bag and sustainable food container for restaurants and bars so they can use plastic bags and EPS for take-out and to-go services, as there appears to be a shortage of the better, environmentally appropriate items. The article notes that this will be in effect only as long as the State prohibits on-premises dining.
  • Olympia: The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.) reported that the City Council is waiving the fee retailers are required to charge customers for use of paper bags.
  • Seattle:  Northwest Grocery Association has received confirmation from the City that during the COVID–19 crisis, although the policies will remain in effect, there will be no enforcement action taken on businesses that are unable to remain in compliance with the City's bag and food service packaging requirements. 
  • Snohomish: Snohomish City Councilmember tweeted that in order to prevent spread of infection, the ban on single-use plastic bags in Snohomish has been temporarily lifted by Mayor Kartak.
  • Tacoma: On March 24, the City Council voted to approve an immediate suspension of the “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance.