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Reusable Is The New Plastic: What You Should Know About The NJ Bag Ban

So, New Jersey is getting past plastic– as of May 4th, 2022, stores in New Jersey, including retail, grocery, and food services, may not provide or sell single-use plastic carryout bags or polystyrene foam products (styrofoam).

Photo by Christopher Vega on Unsplash

What about paper bags?

Single-use paper carryout bags are still allowed to be provided or sold, except grocery stores larger than 2500 square feet– a detail not many New Jerseyans were aware of. According to a poll by Monmouth University, up to 72% had no idea paper bags were included in this ban.

So what items are exempt?

According to, the ban includes bags that:

  • contain uncooked meat, fish, or poultry

  • package loose items like produce

  • contain live animals (think goldfish)

  • contain food sliced or prepared to order, including soup and hot food

  • laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags

  • contain prescriptions

  • contain newspapers

Though NJ has taken one great leap for environmental progress, store owners are left with many carryout plastics in their inventory and don’t know what to do with them.

Here are 3 great ways to get rid of your excess plastic bags:

  1. Consider donating them to your local food bank

  2. Check with your local waste management and find out what plastics they recycle

  3. Recycle with Terracycle

What about the other 50 States?

In August 2014, California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. The other states that have since outright banned bags include Oregon, Washington, Maine, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and Hawaii. The territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have also banned disposable bags. Other states, like Massachusetts or Pennsylvania,** have included a partial ban or leave it up to their individual city’s discretion.

**as well as, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Alaska, and Wyoming

Click here to see a map detailing the US states and their bag ban policies

Whether you’re ready to move on from plastic bags or not, things are changing here in the Garden State. My advice? Keep a reusable bag in your car or purse– that way you never find yourself cursing under your breath at the grocery store parking lot.

My top recommendations for reusable bags:

Out with the old and in with the reusable. Many are looking forward to cleaner shores this summer and doing away with microplastics in our nature. Those who fail to adopt the changes could face charges anywhere from $1000-5000 per day for subsequent offenses… so grab a tote!


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