New Jersey residents are approaching a significant milestone this December: seven months after the ban on single-use plastic bags. As of May 4th, the law banned single-use plastic bags at all checkouts and paper bags at most grocery stores and all major department stores. The bill banning bags, other single-use plastic items and styrofoam-like products was signed into law in November 2020, and the state gave businesses and consumers 18 months to prepare. But even with this lead time, things didn’t go quite smoothly.
Growing pains amid the new law have seen some residents hoard reusable bags they receive with every online or in-store purchase and customers arriving at some stores to find no more shopping baskets. Food banks and homeless shelters have also found that many of the plastic and recyclable bags donated to them — temporarily allowed for those organizations that had a stay from the ban — have proven unsanitary.
To address at least one of the issues that have emerged so far across the Garden State, state officials are considering re-allowing paper bags in all grocery stores for delivery, pickup and curbside services — an aspect of the law that has made it one of the most stringent in the nation. One bill, S-3114, is currently pending a vote by the State Senate. If it were also approved by the state assembly and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, it would allow paper bags for online services at grocery stores 2,500 square feet or larger in size for three years, giving the stores more time to adapt to the ban.