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NY R02432

September 12, 2005

MAR-2 RR:NC:SP:221 R02432


Ms. Beth Lopergolo
S. Walter Packaging
2900 Grant Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19114


Dear Ms. Lopergolo:

This is in response to your letter dated August 15, 2005, requesting a ruling on whether shopping bags and merchandise bags must be marked with the country of origin. Photographs of the bags were provided.

The photographs show three styles of shopping bags and two styles of merchandise bags. The three bags identified as shopping bags are composed of polyethylene and polypropylene plastic sheeting, and range in thickness from 1 to 4 mils. These shopping bags have side and bottom gussets and either plastic or rope handles. The two bags identified as “flat bags” are heat-sealed merchandise bags made of plastic sheeting. These bags are available with or without a bottom gusset. They are also available with or without a diecut punch handle.

The shopping and merchandise bags are sold to retail establishments, which then provide them to customers as a means to carry home purchased goods. You state that presently the bags are individually marked with the country of origin. You ask if such marking is necessary to comply with the marking regulations.

The marking statute, section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser the English name of the country of origin of the article. Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Section 134.1(d) defines the ultimate purchaser as generally the last person in the U.S. who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported.

Where the articles imported constitute containers, 19 CFR Part 134 Subpart C is applicable. The country of origin marking requirements applicable to containers imported empty depend, in part, on whether the containers are reusable or disposable in nature. Disposable containers imported by persons or firms who fill them with various products which they sell may be excepted from individual marking pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D). However, this exception is not applicable if the imported containers are reusable. Thus, the shopping bags and merchandise bags may be excepted from individual marking only if they are disposable containers, of the type ordinarily discarded after the contents have been consumed. Under 134.23, containers are considered reusable if they are either designed for or capable of reuse after the contents have been consumed, or impart the essential character to the whole importation. Such containers, whether imported full or empty, must be individually marked to indicate the country of their own origin with a marking such as, "Container Made in (name of country)."

In order to determine whether the bags are excepted from country of origin marking requirements, it is first necessary to establish whether the bags are disposable or reusable containers as well as to ascertain the identity of the ultimate purchaser of the bags within the meaning of 19 U.S.C.1304. It has been the position of Customs that imported plastic shopping bags, given by retail stores to their customers with the purchase of items, are subject to the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304. The ultimate purchaser of the plastic shopping bags is not the retail store, but the customer who is the last to receive the bag in the form in which it is imported. The shopping bags pictured in your request are of a construction that is durable and suitable for repetitive use, with a use and identity separate from their contents. Accordingly, the marking provisions of 134.23(a) are applicable and the shopping bags must be individually marked with their own country of origin. An alternative appropriate marking for the bags, so as not to mislead the purchaser about the origin of the contents, would be "Bag made in (name of country).”

The merchandise bags, in contrast to the shopping bags, are more flimsily constructed and are not suitable for repetitive use. The retail establishments are considered the ultimate purchasers of the merchandise bags. The marking requirements for the merchandise bags may be met by marking the outermost containers in which merchandise bags are imported, provided that the port director at the port of entry is satisfied that the shipping containers will reach the ultimate purchaser unopened.

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 177).

A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Joan Mazzola at 646-733-3023.


Robert B. Swierupski

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