What is prohibited and when does it start
For generations, New Jerseyans have used to carry their groceries in paper or plastic bags.
This will end abruptly in less than a month.
But it’s more complicated than that.
New Jersey is set to enact the nation’s toughest ban on carry-out bags as well as other everyday plastic products.
The new law signed by Governor Phil Murphy nearly 18 months ago covers a lot of ground and isn’t exactly straightforward.
There are several exceptions and exemptions scattered throughout the measure’s 4,412 words after lawmakers, business lobbyists and environmental groups spent years arguing and compromising on different sections.
Here is a guide to a law that will affect all New Jersey consumers:
Why does New Jersey ban bags?
Plastic pollution is a big problem in New Jersey.
It spreads easily and everywhere because New Jersey is surrounded by water on three sides – with dozens of tidal rivers flowing inland.
For decades, the majority of litter picked up during annual beach cleanups by Clean Ocean Action volunteers was plastic. In recent years, plastic has accounted for more than 80% of litter, with bags, foam and straws among the top found items.
Plastic does not biodegrade. It just breaks down into smaller pieces. A 2016 report by NY/NJ Baykeeper estimated that there were nearly 166 million pieces of microscopic plastic – which can easily enter the lungs and bloodstream – floating in the waterways of New Jersey and New York. .
Scientists have even found these microplastic particles in some of the state’s most pristine waterways, including the upper Raritan and Passaic rivers.
Business groups, on the other hand, criticized the ban as unnecessary government intervention that would force consumers to buy other plastic products.
What is prohibited?
Almost all plastic carrier bags.
Paper bags — but only in large supermarkets.
Most plastic foam containers and cups.
(See below for details.)
When does the ban on plastic bags and the like start?
Almost all start on Wednesday, May 4.
What types of plastic bags are prohibited?
The law targets plastic take-out bags, those that have been offered free to consumers for generations in nearly all types of retail establishments.
The ban covers all stores, not just supermarkets and restaurants.
The ban covers all plastic take-out bags, regardless of their thickness.
Which plastic bags are exempt from the ban?
- Woven plastic tote bags with sewn-on handles that many establishments, including supermarkets and big-box retailers, sell at checkouts for around $1 to $2.
- Meat department bags that package uncooked beef, fish, poultry, etc.
- Produce bags to hold fruits and vegetables with others to hold loose items such as nuts, coffee, cereals, baked goods, candies and flowers.
- Pet bags used to hold live animals, such as fish.
- Deli bags containing sliced or prepared foods.
- Dry cleaning bags
- Medicine bags for carrying prescription drugs
- Newspaper bags
What are the alternatives to plastic bags?
The law basically wants shoppers to bring their own bags, and they can be made of anything.
Shops are stocking up on woven plastic tote bags for sale, as well as canvas, hemp and other materials.
Although environmentalists and regulators often refer to thin plastic grocery bags as “single-use,” many people have repurposed them for other purposes, from picking up dog feces to lining small trash cans.
Most New Jersey residents will now have to buy bags, refrain from using them, or use free bags exempt from the law (see above).
Learn more about the environment:Montclair proposes ‘one of a kind’ law to slow alarming decline in pollinating insects
Are plastic bin bags still available?
Trash liners, heavy contractor garbage bags and other plastic garbage bags will still be available for sale.
Are paper bags banned everywhere?
The bill bans paper bags only in large grocery stores.
This also includes big box stores such as Costco, Target, and Walmart if they have large grocery sections of at least 2,500 square feet.
Any other store — from a restaurant filling take-out orders to a boutique selling clothes — can still use paper bags.
You can also always buy paper lawn and leaf bags.
The paper bag ban did not come from the environmental lobby but from the supermarket lobby.
As the bill was being debated in Trenton, representatives from the New Jersey Food Council lobbied for a paper bag ban in exchange for supporting the plastic bag ban. Supermarkets didn’t want the added expense of providing more expensive paper bags.
Which plastic containers are prohibited?
The new law bans most polystyrene food and beverage containers, commonly known as Styrofoam.
The most common of these are the white and black clamshell containers used in buffets and for hot food takeout orders.
The ban also includes:
- Foam cups for hot and cold drinks.
- Vegetable bins.
- Egg cartons.
Small businesses with less than $500,000 in annual revenue can apply for an exemption for one year if they cannot find a “reasonably affordable” alternative.
Which containers are exempt?
Other foam products are not expected to be banned until May 4, 2024. They include:
- Trays for raw meat, poultry or fish.
- Prepackaged foam containers such as for ramen noodles or mac and cheese.
- Small cups of 2 ounces or less used for hot foods.
- Long handled spoons used for milkshakes and smoothies.
Are plastic straws prohibited?
But plastic straws can now only be given out on request, under a provision of the law that came into force in November.
Early versions of the bill banned plastic straws outright, but advocates said people with physical disabilities should still be allowed to ask for them when dining out. No proof of disability is required.
Yet six months after the new regulations began, many restaurants and other businesses are still providing unsolicited plastic straws with every drink order.
Is the packaging of peanuts prohibited?
These lightweight, easily blown pieces of polystyrene will banned in New Jersey in early 2024.
They were covered by a separate law signed by Murphy in January.
My city has already banned plastic. What’s happening to him ?
It’s done, kaput, gone, adios.
State law overrides and negates any municipal or county regulations on plastic bags, foam containers, and plastic straws.
Who applies all this and what are the penalties?
The state Department of Environmental Protection delegates enforcement authority to local health departments.
The first offense is a warning. The second offense is a fine of up to $1,000. The third offense and subsequent offenses are subject to fines of up to $5,000.
If you have any further questions about New Jersey’s plastic bans, contact Scott Fallon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and city.
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