Pending amendments could be coming to New Jersey's plastic bag ban

Senator Bob Smith said he's looking to add four amendments to the bag ban bill.

Katie Katro Image
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Pending amendments could be coming to New Jersey's plastic bag ban
Lawmakers are considering amending it to allow paper bags when it comes to online deliveries.

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- It could be a flip-flop in New Jersey over the state's single-use bag ban.

Lawmakers are considering amending it to allow paper bags when it comes to online deliveries.

Senator Bob Smith sponsored the bag ban legislation and has introduced a new bill that would amend the law when it comes to third-party deliveries, focusing on options for online grocery orders, including using cardboard boxes or bringing back paper bags.

The discussion is not about bringing back paper bags to big grocery stores because of their environmental impact.

"The success is unbelievable. Every month we're literally saving millions, something like 14 million paper bags going into the environment, and something like 600 million single-use plastic bags," said Smith.

Smith said he's looking to add four amendments to the bill, S-3114.

"The amendments are to provide new alternatives for people," said Smith. "The first alternative that any of these third-party delivery services and the customers agree on what's going to happen. And the customer has the right to say, 'I want you to take the bags back.' And then the third party delivery service should either then reuse it, recycle or donate it to a food bank."

For the second choice, Smith said, "Allow the third party delivery service to deliver in paper bags, and amazingly even though this is 2 percent of New Jersey's grocery delivery, there's been a lot of pushback, saying we got rid of the bags. We don't want to go back to bags."

The third choice would be the "Costco model."

"The Costco model you know when you go to Costco you know you don't get a container to take stuff home, you use one of their empty boxes. So in fact you're recycling," said Smith.

For the fourth choice, he said, "We used to have a system where the milkman would deliver milk, cream, butter to your back porch. He had a little container, it had a little insulation, and if the customers want to have that, they would be allowed to get their groceries with no container whatsoever. The delivery person would just put it into that container."

Smith said the amended proposals to the bill were put up on the Senate agenda last week and other senators had some other issues they wanted to bring up. Smith said the amended bill would have to get out of the Senate and then go to the New Jersey General Assembly.

Smith said there may be no need for legislation if everything works out on its own between the delivery services working with the grocery stores. He said while the law has been in effect for about six months, the governor's office and the DEP said they may want to give the law more time to work out some of these issues. So it could be worth it to wait another six months to give the law a year.

It's possible the law could be amended by the end of the year, according to Smith. It's going to require the agreement of the DEP and the governor's office.

He added when the amended bill is sent over to the New Jersey General Assembly, it's possible additional amendments could be made.

At Rastelli Market Fresh in Marlton, you have to buy or bring a reusable bag to shop in the store. And if you order online, all your groceries are delivered in a reusable bag.

"People that are actually at home shopping curbside pickup, they can't bring their bags in so we're giving bags. So what we need to do is just get that segment fixed and I think it will take a lot of stress off a lot of shoppers," said Chris Mentzer, director of operations at Rastelli Market Fresh.

The pending bill could bring back the paper bag option for online shopping at larger grocery stores like Rastelli Market Fresh.

"It's a little bit of a hiccup in the system because the customers that actually don't need the bags that are at home are getting tons of reusable bags. And every time they order, if it's two or three times a day, they continually get the same amount of bags every single time," said Mentzer.

A food delivery driver said he's in favor of bringing back paper bags because he said he sees the reusable bags pile up in people's homes.

"They have a stockpile of like hundreds of them at home from constantly doing it, but there's no current way for us to take them back so they're just losing out on the money they spent," said food delivery driver Joseph Eisenbaugh.