In 6 months – what you need to know about the plastic bag ban in NJ


Do you rely solely on plastic bags when checking out at the supermarket or convenience store?

This is set to change in about six months, so you are advised to start adjusting your habits now to make it easier to comply with a New Jersey law that was signed during the coronavirus pandemic and goes into effect on May 4. 2022..

“We encourage people to add ‘bring reusable bags’ to their shopping list to help them remember,” said JoAnn Gemenden, executive director of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council.

As part of the legislation, which aims to prevent plastics from entering landfills and waterways, the NJCCC is tasked with implementing a statewide awareness campaign and program. Gemenden also recommends that New Jersey residents keep a reusable bag in their vehicles, so they aren’t caught off guard when they need to make a purchase after the law comes into force.

“The advantage is that a reusable bag contains so many more items than a small, single-use plastic bag,” Gemenden said. “They’re strong, they don’t break.”

On its website, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection offers a comprehensive overview of the law and answers any questions a consumer or business may have. Take a look below for the main points you need to keep in mind before May 4th.

What’s going on?

Bruce Mikells, ThinkStock

Starting May 4, New Jersey stores and restaurants, as well as other places like food trucks and movie theaters, will be banned from providing single-use plastic carrier bags to customers. They also cannot be purchased.

A bag is only considered reusable, according to the law, if it:

  • is made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, fabric, hemp product or other washable fabric; and
  • has sewn-in handles; and
  • is designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.

Disposable paper take-out bags, meanwhile, will be banned in grocery stores of at least 2,500 square feet.

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Bags aren’t the only items restricted when the law comes into effect. On May 4, catering businesses – restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, etc. Sytrofoam), or sell the containers.

Are there any exceptions?

The law includes a list of uses for plastic bags that are exempt:

  • a bag used only to hold or wrap uncooked meat, fish or poultry.
  • a bag used only for packing bulk items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, cereals, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers, bulk or small food hardware items.
  • a bag used only to hold live animals, such as fish or insects sold in a pet store.
  • a bag used only to hold food that is sliced ​​or made to order, including soup or hot food.
  • laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bag.
  • a bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.
  • a bag for newspapers.
  • any similar bag, as determined by the Department under a rule, regulation or directive.

As for polystyrene foam, the following products are exempt until at least May 4, 2024:

  • Long handled polystyrene disposable soda spoons when needed / used for thick drinks.
  • Serving cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids.
  • Meat and fish trays for raw or cut meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance.
  • Any food product prepackaged by the manufacturer with a styrofoam food service product.

Companies affected by compliance with the polystyrene foam rule have the option of requesting an exemption that would not last more than one year. The food service provider must prove that there are no other feasible options.

What else do I need to know?

  1. Companies are not required by law to make reusable bags available to consumers, so you might be out of luck if you forget yours.
  2. If you happen to have your own stock of plastic bags, there is no rule against bringing your own plastic to the local supermarket.
  3. Another part of the law, relating to plastic straws, comes into effect on November 4, 2021. Food service providers are no longer allowed to provide a plastic straw to customers unless requested.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]

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