5 Ways NJ’s Plastic Bag Ban Will Change Your Life, For Better Or Worse

The list of pros and cons of New Jersey’s upcoming plastic bag ban will inevitably vary from person to person.

Maybe you have already adopted some eco-friendly habits and are counting the days to May 4 with joy. Or, conversely, you fear the loss of nice multi-purpose plastic bags, which will soon disappear from grocery stores and restaurants.

And then there are those who are still trying to figure out the ban – and please carry on send questions along!

With less than two weeks to go until the ban begins, we’ve spoken to experts, compiled feedback and reviewed the new rules to outline five ways the bag ban will change your life – for better and for worse.

1. You will forget that the ban is in progress

People will forget at the beginning of May that it just started.

Walking from the parking lot to the entrance of the supermarket, you will forget to take your reusable bags out of the car.

Even worse: you’ll get to the checkout before realizing you have to shell out money to buy reusable bags because you don’t have any or you forgot yours at home.

“I’m sure everyone will be at least a little frustrated or very frustrated because of the convenience of walking into the store and having these perpetually free bags,” said Louise Wootton, professor of biology at Georgian Court. University.

Although 7 in 10 residents know that shops will soon no longer be allowed to distribute single-use plastic bags, only a third say they know ‘a lot’ about the ban, according to a new survey released by Monmouth University . And only 28% of residents know the ban will include paper bags in most grocery stores (anything over 2,500 square feet), according to the poll.

Kerrie Sendall, assistant professor of biology at Rider University, said practice makes perfect.

“When I started (my personal ban on plastic bags) I would forget my reusable bags and then I would have to leave my cart in the store and go out and get my bags and come back,” Sendall laughed. “But now I have it in my memory.”

2. You will see less waste

Part of the efforts behind New Jersey’s strict ban include reducing the amount of trash that accumulates in parks, becomes eye sores along highways and harms marine life in waterways.

Of the 4.2 million tonnes of plastic bags, bags and packaging generated in 2018, 420,000 were recycled, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

And when Clean Ocean Action, a New Jersey-based environmental nonprofit, released its annual Beach Sweeps report, it found that plastic made up 82% of debris collected in 2021.

Ultimately, integrating reusable alternatives into our daily lives will reduce the number of single-use bags and should mean cleaner public spaces, experts tell NJ Advance Media.

“I love hiking. I love getting out in our parks and walking along the shore at Cape May, Asbury Park and elsewhere. One thing I see is single use plastic waste everywhere. I see it in the river. I see it in lakes and ponds, and I see wildlife interacting with it,” said Matthew Schuler, assistant professor of biology at Montclair State University.

“Once we get through the first few months or maybe even the first year, we hope to see that the pollution is reduced significantly,” he added.

RELATED: Plastic Bag Ban in New Jersey: 23 Your Urgent Questions Answered

3. You’ll have fewer free bags for your pets and trash cans

The loss of single-use plastic bags at most Garden State stores will mean fewer free bags for your personal stash at home — and all the ways that will make your life easier.

Although you can order more online, advocates hope residents will explore sustainable alternatives. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard to kick the habit of reusing those plastic bags, which are great for lining trash cans in bathrooms, bedrooms, and small offices.

If you’re a pet owner, you might also have a habit of scooping up kitty litter in plastic bags or putting one in your pocket when walking your dog to pick up feces.

But since you’re running out of bags from your personal collection, consider alternatives, experts said. You can use food bags, which will not be part of the plastic bag ban. Or consider one of the following options:

Stockton University food vendors only provide paper bags for takeout orders on April 5, 2022 at Stockton University in Galloway, NJ, as New Jersey moves to ban single-use plastic bags.Jim Lowney for NJ Advance Media

4. Sustainability will become easier

Those who have long jumped on the sustainability bandwagon will have a much easier time starting May 4.

Exhibit A: A professor’s trip to a pet store in New Jersey earlier this year.

“I had a real argument with a guy at (the pet store) because I took out my (reusable) bag and said, ‘I have my own bag’ but without thinking he took my stuff. and he put them in a plastic bag anyway,” said Sandra Suarez, a biology professor at Ramapo College and director of the school’s Upward Bound Math Science program.

Recalling the exchange, Suarez said that when she insisted that her purchases be placed in her own bag, the clerk placed the plastic bag he had used in the trash.

She said some store employees are very understanding when you bring reusable bags. Sometimes you have to be quick lest clerks bag your purchase before you know it and waste a bag, she noted.

“We’re trying to do this for the sake of the environment and this slight inconvenience for you, but it’s really no big deal,” Suarez said. “We can all suck it, you know.”

Sendall, a professor at Rider University, said she was also looking forward to the paradigm shift on May 4 – when things change and the choice to use a reusable bag becomes the norm.

5. You will be frustrated with the law

It will occur to some of us that paper bags and polystyrene containers are also included in the ban. For places – like small bodegas, restaurants and delis – that can still supply paper bags, the headaches will come in the form of shopping in the store on rainy days when those bags tend to get soggy. and tear easily.

Eating out will come with its own changes. By law, restaurants must serve or deliver food in plastic, paper or aluminum containers — not polystyrene — and can only provide plastic straws upon request.

Anyone crossing the Hudson River in New York or the Delaware River in Philadelphia will also be left scratching their heads at how those states have their own version of plastic bans. Navigating the differences can take some getting used to. In New York for example, paper bags are still acceptable everywhere, including large grocery stores. And philadelphia cream — unlike New Jersey — previously set a deadline for bringing plastic bags home from your personal stash.

“There will be people on the front line at the grocery store who will not be informed (of the bag ban). I think that’s why companies will have to raise awareness early,” said William Pennock, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at NJIT. Newark College of Engineering.

However, some things, Pennock noted, will just be a matter of habit.

This will include better understanding how many reusable bags you’ll need when you leave the house (hint: get over it), getting used to how online grocery ordering works (it’s still up in the air), and learn how to better wash and maintain reusable bags.

For more information on the ban, visit nj.com/plasticbagban. Still have questions about New Jersey’s plastic bag ban? Ask them here.

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Steven Rodas can be reached at srodas@njadvancemedia.com.

Bryce K. Locke