No More Plastic Bags


Emily Strom, Senior Writer

May 4, 2022 was the first day the plastic bag ban in New Jersey was implemented. What exactly does this mean? Stores such as ShopRite and Wegmans cannot give out single-use plastic or paper bags at checkout, home, or for curbside delivery. However, they are allowed to sell reusable woven plastic tote bags with stitched handles. When buying from a supermarket, you must use bring your own bags to hold your groceries.The ban also includes paper bags in big-box stores with grocery sections and supermarkets.

Additionally, foam food containers such as those you use to bring home food from a restaurant and foam coffee cups cannot be given out.  And if you get takeout, plastic carryout bags will no longer be given. Shoppers cannot buy foam plates, cups, or utensils, either. You can only be given plastic straws upon request, although this has been a rule for a while now. 

I spoke with Melanie Willoughby, who currently is the Head of the New Jersey Business Action Center, a part of the Department of State that is implementing the bag ban policy. Here’s what she had to say:


Q: What was the main reason for implementing this policy?

A: It is a step towards trying to rid our state of an environmental hazard, which is plastic bags that end up in our waste stream and are killing birds and fish and strangling turtles. We are very interested in removing the plastic bags so that we can go forward with going back to a more natural way of bringing home our groceries. 

Q: What can customers expect when going into stores? 

A: Customers can expect that there will be no plastic bags for them to ulitize for their groceries. If there are in a retail food store that is over 2,500 square feet, not only where there be no plastic bags, but there will be no paper bags as well. [If you are shopping at a clothing store, you will still have bags available to you to bring home your purchase.]

Q: What options are available to customers in grocery stores? 

A: They have a number of options. They can purchase reusable bags, or they can bring their beach bag or napsack to bring their groceries home in. They really can use anything, but will not have the option of a paper or plastic bag available to them. 

Q: How will food pantries and takeout in restaurants be impacted? 

A: Food pantries will have a six month hiatus so that they can try to figure out how to handle moving to a no-plastic or paper bag environment. They will be still be able to use them at this time as they try to figure that out. As for restaurants, they will have to comply to no plastic, although they can use paper because they are not 2,500 square feet in size. Also, restaurants will not have the ability to use polystyrene, otherwise known as styrofoam, anymore, such as the styrofoam plates, cups, and clamshells that hold food. Those will all be gone and you won’t even be able to buy those in the store anymore. 

Q: What options are available to customers at a restaurant to take home their food?

A: You can use a box (which some restaurants are using now anyways), made of thick paper, that has a top with wax paper in it that you can put your food in. Or you can use a plastic container with a top on it. Many of those plastic containers are microwavable so you can use those over and over again. They also may provide you with something that looks like styrofoam, but its actually made of biodegradable materials such as corn, soy, bamboo. 


Finally, Willougby noted that this is “a step in the right direction” in helping our environment slowly get to where it needs to be. By removing plastic bags, we are helping the lives of many innocent animals and helping free up space in landfills.