Paper or plastic? Poll says NJ may not know bag ban includes both
When New Jersey's long-awaited ban on single-use plastic shopping bags goes into effect May 4, there is a companion provision in the legislation that will outlaw paper bags at larger supermarkets.
That's been part of the headline of New Jersey 101.5's coverage of the transition, but new numbers from the Monmouth County Polling Institute show a significant portion of Garden State residents may not be aware the age-old question of "paper or plastic?" is about to become totally obsolete.
Poll director Patrick Murray said just over 1 in 4 respondents (28%) said they knew about the impending paper bag elimination and less than half (47%) support it, although just 10% said they currently opt for paper.
"A lot of people are going to be caught off-guard if they go into a supermarket thinking, 'Yeah, I know there's no plastic bags there, but I'll pick up a paper bag,' and finding out that they can't do that either," Murray said.
Should plastic bags continue to be offered, for a fee?
Seven in 10 New Jerseyans know the plastic bag ban is coming — 37% said they'd heard at least a little about it, and 33% have heard a lot, according to the poll.
But not as high of a percentage is in favor of the new legislation, with 41% believing stores should still offer plastic bags for free, and 28% supporting them continuing to be available for a small fee.
"Just 30%, when given the preference, say 'Yeah, let's get rid of them entirely, not have any option at all,'" Murray said. "So, while people generally support this, it's not necessarily the preference of the majority of New Jersey."
The poll found 38% of New Jersey shoppers already bring their own, reusable bags into stores, but for the remainder who don't, the change may be challenging.
"We find that 15% say it'll be very difficult, and that number goes up when you look at folks on the lower end of the income scale, those making under $50,000 a year," Murray said, however adding that 57% of this lower-income group still said they supported a ban on plastic.
Are NJ restaurants still giving out plastic straws at will?
As a precursor to the bag ban, New Jersey establishments have been outlawed from giving plastic straws to customers since last November.
But the Monmouth poll found that just over half of respondents (51%) knew that rule has in place for close to half a year, and more troubling for the state, compliance from places that serve beverages with straws seems to be inconsistent.
"While about half say that most restaurants have been following the rule that you wait for the customer to ask, about a third say that in their experience, they've been seeing most restaurants still give these out automatically, and not following the law," Murray said.
In general, Democrats are more likely to support the new measures, but the restrictions on plastic straws appear to take things a bit too far for Republicans; just 26% said they approve.
The biggest backing in the survey is reserved for the imminent ban on foam takeout containers. An overall percentage of 64% of respondents support that, including 73% of Democrats, 66% of independents, and 49% of Republicans.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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