Inside a warehouse in Brooklyn, boxes of plastic bags collect dust, and the printing presses used to create customized bags sit idle.
"When we were actually in the middle of printing bags, customers call in and said, 'Listen, we're going to have to stop only because we got this message. We don't want to break any laws," said Adam Attia, manager of Rite Pac Wholesalers.
Attia says when the state passed the law banning single-use plastic bags last year, his business declined almost overnight. Now, he's stuck with two warehouses packed with products he can’t sell that are worth about $1 million.
"We might as well open a bag museum," he said.
The law takes effect Sunday, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation agreed Friday to wait one month, until April 1, to enforce penalties against stores that do not comply. The promise, though, was largely symbolic. The agency had planned all along to phase in enforcement to give businesses time to adapt. The DEC made the pledge during a hearing on a legal challenge by a bag maker and a trade group of 5,000 bodegas in the city.
"They are asking for time to get what we they need," said Francisco Marte of the U.S. Bodegueros Association. "Now, especially for the bodega, we are facing chaos."
Regardless of the legal challenge, the city is preparing residents for the changes to come. Mayor Bill de Blasio handed out reusable bags in Union Square Park.
"Eight hundred thousand of these have been given out already!" he said.
In Sunnyside, Queens, the Green Valley Marketplace is using the last of its plastic bags. General Manger Randy Gutierrez says the increased demand for paper bags left his supplier out stock. He appreciates the environmental benefits of the plastic bag ban, but says they will come at the expense of businesses like Green Valley.
"We essentially have to swallow the cost," Gutierrez said. "You take the price of a paper bag, which is around 14 cents. For a business like us, it's a bit unfair."
Back in Brooklyn, Attia is trying to roll with the punches. He’s exploring making biodegradable, paper and canvas bags to adapt to the sweeping change set to take hold when the plastic bag is enforced.