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New Jersey bans plastic and paper bags as of 2022

Law also prohibits use of polystyrene foam cups and food containers

by Cheryl Hogue
November 19, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 45


Photo shows a paper grocery bag and a plastic grocery bag sitting upright on grass.
Credit: Shutterstock
New Jersey is banning paper and plastic grocery bags as of May 2022.

Shoppers in New Jersey who don’t already bring reusable bags to stores would do well to begin practicing. Starting in May 2022, both plastic and paper single-use bags will be banned, along with polystyrene foam food containers and cups.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation for one of the strictest plastics bans in the US, S864, into law in early November.

In the law, the New Jersey Legislature determined that “it is no longer conscionable to permit the unfettered use and disposal of single-use plastics in the State.” It cited the need for the state, with nearly 9 million residents, to minimize plastic pollution entering the ocean. Lawmakers included paper bags in the ban after finding that “single-use paper carryout bags use as much or more energy and resources to manufacture and transport than single-use plastic carryout bags and contribute to harmful air emissions.”

The law encourages the distribution of free, reusable, machine-washable bags. It also says the state’s nascent hemp-growing industry “would be a significant force in creating biodegradable raw materials that can be turned into hemp-based bio-packaging.”

In addition, the law requires that restaurants and other food businesses provide patrons with single-use plastic straws only upon request starting in November 2021.

The law exempts plastic bags used to hold loose fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as baked goods, meat and cheese sliced to order, dry-cleaned clothes, and newspapers.


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