NJ plastic and paper bag ban to go into effect

People in New Jersey have less than a month before one of the strictest bans on single-use bags in the country goes into effect.

In Nov. 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that prohibits single-use plastic and paper bags and disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam.  The ban goes into effect on May 4, 2022.​

"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," Murphy said in a statement. "With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations."

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Some products are exempt until 2024, including long-handled polystyrene spoons, cups of two ounces or less, meat and fish trays, any food product pre-packaged by a manufacturer, and any other foam foodservice item deemed necessary by state regulators.

People will be able to bring reusable bags to the store or the store can sell reusable bags.  Restaurants will still be allowed to provide single-use paper bags and food will still be allowed to be delivered in plastic containers.

Convenience and other small stores will still be allowed to use single-use paper bags along with pharmacies.

And while grocery stores can't provide them, retail stores will be allowed to provide single-use paper bags.  It was unclear what that means for large retailers that sell both merchandise and groceries.

Other exemptions for plastic bags include ones used to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish, or poultry, bags to package loose items, bags to contain live animals, and laundry, dry cleaning, and garment bags. 

Some Republican lawmakers and industry groups opposed the ban, saying it will hurt small businesses that are already reeling from the pandemic.

Environmental groups praised the law. The New Jersey Sierra Club director called it a "major environmental victory."

New Jersey joins eight states to ban plastic bags. While some states impose a fee on paper bags and Hawaii has a de facto ban on bags with less than 40% recycled material, New Jersey lawmakers say it's the first state with a paper bag ban.

The state also only allows plastic straws to be provided upon request of the consumer.  That ban went into effect on Nov. 4, 2021.

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