New Jersey single-use bag ban: Everything you should know as law takes effect

The rule affects grocery stores 2,500 square feet or larger.
TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect in New Jersey.

Starting today, Wednesday, May 4, most grocery stores in the Garden State will not be allowed to give out single-use plastic or paper bags.

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

Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags or purchase a reusable one at checkout.

There are some exceptions which will still be allowed. Single-use bags will still be allowed for food such as fruit, vegetables, uncooked meat, fish, food prepared to order, as well as laundry/dry cleaning bags, newspaper bagss and a bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs, according to New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection.

SEE ALSO: Wawa giving away reusable bags at NJ stores on day single-use bag ban begins

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

Governor Phil Murphy signed the law in November of 2020 allowing for an 18-month grace period.

In addition to the ban on plastic bags, New Jersey is the first state in the nation to prevent grocery stores from providing paper bags.

Wawa stores in New Jersey started giving away thousands of free reusable bags at 7 a.m.

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Starting today, most grocery stores in the Garden State will not be allowed to give out single-use plastic or paper bags.



The convenience store giant will distribute a total of almost 272,000 free reusable bags to customers throughout the state, the company said.

For some grocery shoppers, the adjustment was not a tough one.

"We have bags from Shoprite, Lidl, all over, Dollar Tree," said Gloria Discher Wednesday night.

And yet many others were not.

"I forgot to bring my bags. Fortunately for me, they sold bags," said Peg Schnyer of Collinswood.

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 bird's 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."

Here is a breakdown on the bag ban by location:



Grocey Store (2,500 sq ft or larger)
  • New Norms:
- Customers bring reusable bags to the store
- Store sells reusable bags

  • What is Not Permitted:
- Store cannot provide single-use plastic or paper bags*
This includes:
At checkout
Curbside pickup
Home delivery

  • Exceptions
- Bags for loose items are exempt e.g., produce, greeting cards, flowers etc.

- Polystyrene foam for raw and deli sliced meats, including poultry and fish trays are exempt**
- Polystyrene foam for grocery items pre-packed by a manufacturer are exempt** e.g., instant ramen noodles

Restaurant (includes fast-food and food delivery)
  • New Norms
- Restaurants may provide single-use paper bags
- Food served or delivered in plastic, paper, or aluminum containers
- Customers bring a reusable bag
- Restaurants only provide plastic straws when requested

  • What is Not Permitted
- Restaurant cannot provide single-use plastic bags*
- Restaurant cannot serve or deliver food in polystyrene foam

  • Exceptions
- Paper straws are exempt and can be given without a request
- Polystyrene foam portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids are exempt**
- Polystyrene foam disposable, long-handled soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks are exempt**

Convenience Store
  • New Norms
- Convenience Stores may provide single-use paper bags
- Customers bring reusable bags

  • What is Not Permitted
- Store cannot provide single-use plastic bags*

  • Exceptions
- Exceptions listed above for grocery store and restaurant apply

Pharmacy
  • New Norms
- Pharmacy may provide single-use paper bags
- Customers bring a reusable bag

  • What is Not Permitted
- Pharmacy cannot provide single-use plastic bags*

  • Exceptions
- Plastic bags for prescriptions are exempt

Retail Store
  • New Norms
- Retail Stores may provide single-use paper bags
- Customers bring reusable bags

  • What is Not Permitted
- Store cannot provide single-use plastic bags*

In Homes
  • New Norms
- NJ residents can re-use single use plastic bags at home or in-store
- NJ residents can buy and use paper lunch bags

  • What is Not Permitted
- NJ residents can no longer purchase polystyrene foam plates, cups or utensils

  • Exceptions
- Plastic utensils or plastic or paper plates or cups are exempt

* Single-use bag restriction goes into effect May 4, 2022.
** Polystyrene foam exemptions effective until May 4, 2024, unless otherwise extended by the DEP

As you can see, there are many components to the new law for different retail scenarios. You can learn more by clicking here.

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