New Jersey preparing for bag ban: What you should know before it takes effect

The rule affects grocery stores 2,500 square feet or larger.
MEDFORD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Businesses in New Jersey are preparing for the bag ban that's set to take effect on May 4.

Most grocery stores in New Jersey will not be allowed to give out single-use plastic or paper bags.

The rule affects grocery stores 2,500 square feet or larger.

Customers can bring their own bags, or purchase reusable bags.

There are some exceptions, including produce bags, which will still be allowed.

Some customers are already used to bringing their own bags.

"Just the environment and plastic bags start adding up and you can recycle them, but I always forget so I just started using these," said Karen Batterman of Cherry Hill.

In Medford, Binkley's 5 & 10 had 5,000 custom reusable bags made to sell to customers who forget to bring their own.

"We're trying to phase out our plastic bags. It's been hard because you don't know - should you order more?" asked manager Nicole Hunt. "We've noticed that a lot of people haven't even heard about it yet, so we're going to be making signs and putting them up and hopefully warning people before it happens."

Restaurants can still use paper bags for take-out, but no single-use plastic bags and no polystyrene containers.

Riviera Pizza in Medford Lakes has already made the switch.

"We already use the cardboard. We haven't used styrofoam in over a year," said manager Debbie Parola, who says the cardboard and reusable plastic containers seem to keep the food fresher anyway.

Some consumers aren't happy.

"Every time they create new laws it's more of our freedoms taken away," said Mike Green from Vincentown, adding that he thinks the new laws are inconsistent and confusing.

However, environmental scientists at Stockton University say getting rid of long-lasting single-use plastic bags will benefit New Jersey's ecosystems and animals.

"If they wrap around wildlife, if they wrap around a birds neck, if they wrap around a turtle -- they're not letting go. They will literally strangle that animal," said Professor Patrick Hossay, chair of the Department of Sustainability and Energy Science for Stockton University.

"As they get into rivers and streams, they can actually create sort of blockages, dams. That can reroute rivers and streams, create harm to the way they're flowing. And again, they're not degrading," said Hossay. "They're there indefinitely."

There are many components to the new law for different retail scenarios.

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More information on the ban can be found here: https://www.nj.gov/dep/get-past-plastic/
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