New Jersey’s New Norm: No More Plastic

By: Jillian Zimmer, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – Set your reminders, the law to reduce plastic bags and polystyrene foam food-service containers will take effect on May 4. 

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette urges the public to stock up on reusable bags. NJ residents are advised to visit the NJDEP’s Get Past Plastic website to get educated on the new norms. 

“Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “Americans alone use some 100 billion plastic bags each year.

The law, signed by Governor Murphy back in 2020, requires grocery stores and retail establishments to no longer provide single-use plastic bags to customers. The law also prohibits the sale of polystyrene foam takeout food containers and other polystyrene food-service products such as plates, cups, food trays and utensils. 

Single-use paper carryout bags are allowed to be provided or sold, except by grocery stores equal to or larger than 2500 square feet, which may only provide or sell reusable carryout bags. After November 4, 2021, plastic straws may be provided only upon the request of the customer.

“I am all for getting rid of plastic bags,” said Turnersville Target Store Manager. “I think it’ll be a change, but it is going to work out. We just have to work through the kinks.”

Grocery stores ask customers to bring reusable bags to the store or purchase some from the store. Grocery stores cannot provide single-use plastic or paper bags during checkout, curbside pickups, and home deliveries. Exceptions are allowed for loose items like produce, greeting cards, flowers. Polystyrene foam is also allowed for raw and deli sliced meats including poultry and fish trays. 

Places including restaurants (fast and food delivery), convenience stores, and retail stores may provide single-use paper bags, but cannot provide single-use plastic bags. Exceptions to these new norms listed for grocery stores and restaurants apply to convenience stores as well.  NJ residents are advised to re-use single use plastic bags at home or in-store.

As far as food pantries and food banks, they are given extended time to comply with plastic bag provisions of the law under legislation in light of the hardships this pandemic has placed on many people. The Clean Communities Council will still be able to provide them with 500,000 reusable bags for distribution and provide paper bags. Food pantries and food banks have until November 4 to still provide plastic bags. 

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