New proposed joint regulation to enforce Act No. 247-2015, as amended (Prohibition of Disposable Plastic Bags)

On November 30, 2016 the Department of Consumer Affairs (“DACO”, for its Spanish acronym) and the Solid Waste Authority (“Authority”) filed with the Department of State a joint regulation to enforce the provisions of Act No. 247-2015 (the “Act”). The regulation will be effective 30 days after its filing, December 30th.

Starting on December 30th, the Act prohibits the use of disposable plastic bags by commercial establishments in Puerto Rico. This prohibition does not apply to restaurants, fast-foods or establishments that generate at least 90% of their gross income from the sale of prepared foods or to “security tamper-evident bags” used in duty-free stores.

The Act requires that commercial establishments (1) allow their customers to bring their own bags (including reusable and disposable plastic bags) to carry their purchased goods and (2) have reusable bags available for sale or free of charge. Additionally, at the option of the customer, the commercial establishment may use paper bags and charge the customer a reasonable amount to recover the cost of said bags. Commercial establishments that were routinely using paper bags to pack goods purchased in their store at the time the Act was enacted (December 29, 2015), however, may not charge customers for the paper bags.

All commercial establishments must place at least two informative signs that alert and educate customers about the enactment and implementation of the Act. Said signs must be placed in the entrance of the commercial establishment and in at least one cash register or point of sale. The regulation establishes the language that the sign must include.

During the 6-month period starting December 30th, commercial establishments that do not comply with the Act will receive a notice warning of the violation but no monetary penalty or fine will be imposed. Commencing on July 1, 2017, DACO may impose administrative fines of up to $100, $150 or $200 for first-time, second-time or subsequent violations, respectively. The Act also allows DACO to impose fines of up to $500 per violation for failing to have at least a bin for the collection and recycling of disposable plastic bags in compliance with Act No. 70-1992, as amended.

For further information about the Act or the regulation, or should you need assistance in revising your policies, please contact any of the attorneys of the O’Neill & Borges’ Consumer and Retail Law Practice Group.