NJ bag ban is coming — in many towns, it already exists
May 4 won't blindside every New Jersey shopper.
That's the date when retailers must stop giving out single-use plastic bags at checkout.
In dozens of municipalities across the Garden State, some type of bag ban has been in place for quite some time — long before Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law setting the stage for the statewide change.
This article is part 2 in a week-long New Jersey 101.5 series about the upcoming New Jersey ban on plastic bags, paper bags, and Styrofoam products.
"The day that this goes into effect, and the day after, the sun is going to rise in the East and it's going to set in the West, and we're going to get through our day, albeit with a reusable bag," Paramus Mayor Rich LaBarbiera told New Jersey 101.5.
A ban on single-use plastic bags, as well as polystyrene products, went into effect in Paramus on Jan. 1, 2020.
Outside of some initial pushback from retailers, there have been "no issues whatsoever" related to the rule in Paramus, LaBarbiera said.
But even Paramus, which is considered the shopping destination of the Garden State, will have to make adjustments on May 4. On that day, grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet are blocked from handing out or selling paper bags as well. Right now, Paramus permits all retailers to hand out paper bags, and retailers can charge for those bags if they'd like.
Any local rule will be superseded by the statewide law.
According to Clean Ocean Action, based in Long Branch, about 60 municipalities in New Jersey have some type of bag ban already in place. The Association of NJ Environmental Commissions says there are more than 130 related ordinances on the books — some municipalities have multiple ordinances targeting different products, such as straws and balloons.
In Cape May County, where several municipalities are already forbidding single-use plastics, a number of other towns pulled their own plans to implement bans once the New Jersey law was signed.
"It's just a cost of doing business," said Vicki Clark, president of the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce. "We want to take care of our community. Our customer base, as well, really appreciates these recycling efforts."
Asbury Park retailers and businesses had 6 months to prepare before their plastic-bag ban took effect at the beginning of 2020.
"Our goal was really about changing habits, reminding people to bring cloth bags to our one major food store and our bodegas and 7-11s," said Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn.
Quinn said there have been "no major hiccups" with the ban in Asbury Park. Retailers could face a fine of up to $1,000 for violating the bag ban.
"Hopefully New Jersey's will go as smoothly as Asbury Park's has gone," Quinn said.
What's the reasoning for the ban? On Day 3 of this series, we'll hear from a number of groups that led the charge toward this major shift.