On Nov. 4, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature enacted the most progressive bag ban law in the country. The law prevents litter and encourages the use of reusable bags by phasing out single-use plastic and paper bags.
The law bans plastic bags, regardless of thickness, at grocery stores and retail outlets, as well as paper bags at grocery stores measuring more than 2,500 square feet. It also bans clamshell food containers and other products such as plates, cups, food trays and utensils; and makes plastic straws at restaurants available only upon request.
While we often hear about the environmental impact of disposable plastic bags, it is important to remember that disposable paper bags have a significant impact on the environment too. Papermaking requires large inputs of water, energy, chemicals, and wood, and produces various wastes and emissions that must be controlled or treated. Additionally, paper bags require ten times the number of trucks to deliver the same quantity of bags, resulting in increased truck traffic and diesel emissions.
“The health and safety of future generations depend on the choices we make today,” said former state Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), who sponsored the legislation with Assemblymen James Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) and John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “Single-use plastic products are one of the single greatest threats to our oceans, environment and health.”
The statewide ban on disposable bags goes into effect on May 4, 2022, and will create an effective and uniform sustainable policy for all shoppers and business owners in NJ. Reducing waste and litter statewide is a good thing; “This smart, uniform statewide law preempts all local ordinances.” said New Jersey Food Council CEO Linda Doherty, who is also president of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council.
What Can You Do?
- When shopping, bring your reusable shopping bags to help fight waste in your town.
- When it comes to reusable bags, you have options. There are many different sizes, types, materials and designs so choose the ones that work best for you as a consumer.
- Recycle your disposable bags by bringing them to your local retailer.