It’s been about five months since New Jersey’s bag ban has gone into effect. Beginning on May 4th, 2022, New Jersey banned retail stores, grocery stores, and food service businesses from providing single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products. Single-use paper carryout bags are allowed to be provided and sold, except by grocery stores over 2,500 square feet. These grocery stores are only allowed to provide or sell reusable bags, which in turn has caused issues in regards to grocery delivery services and individuals becoming overwhelmed with reusable bags. One New Jersey senator has called for the complete overhaul of the single-use bag ban. Read on to learn about New Jersey’s single-use bag ban and what some lawmakers are looking to amend.
About the Single-Use Bag Ban
On November 4th, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature signed into law the most progessive bag-ban in the country. The law encourages shoppers to provide their own reusable bags when visiting grocery stores and other food service businesses. The bag ban, which went into effect on May 4th, 2022, was meant to reduce the environmental impact of disposable plastic bags and was a big step for sustainability policies for many businesses and shoppers statewide.
“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “With today’s historic big signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollination head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”
Reworking the New Jersey Bag Ban
New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa called for a “complete overhaul” of the bag ban. The Senator said lawmakers rushed to ban single-use plastic bags and should have looked for a more efficient solution.
Reusable bags are piling up in the homes and cars of New Jersey residents, specifically residents who tend to use grocery delivery services and curbside pick up. These services require products to be received in reusable bags, ultimately leading to overconsumption and mass manufacturing.
“They may be reusable bags, but in too many cases they are only being used once,” Testa said in a news release. “It is a waste of money that is burdening the state’s employers, and piling on to product costs, compounding the impact of 8 percent inflation.”
Testa claims that since the enactment of New Jersey’s law in May, imports of the stitched-handle bags have increased by 500 million bags, almost doubling the annual consumption.
Senator Bob Smith is the sponsor of the original bag ban and is open to reworking the law. In September, he told Action News he’s working on a new bill that would amend the law, focusing on options for online grocery orders, including using cardboard boxes or requiring stores to take back reusable bags.
“And then the third way is maybe paper bags. Because we are saving so much on the grocery store side of it in terms of producing waste that this would be a quick and easy fix,” said Senator Bob Smith.
In the meantime, many New Jersey food banks are in desperate need for any reusable bags you may have lying around. After the bag ban went into effect in May, food pantry programs were given an additional 6-month extension to transition out of single use plastic. With the deadline of November 4th approaching, these community supported charities are relying on donations of reusable bags. For more information on where you can donate locally, you can visit the Community Foodbank of New Jersey’s website.