The Waste Word Blog

  • New Jersey's Single-Use Plastic Ban
    May 7, 2021

    In November of 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law which prohibits the use of single-use plastic and paper bags in all stores and food service businesses statewide. The new law will be the strongest single-use plastic ban in the nation.

    Single-use plastics are a major contributor to ocean pollution. Approximately 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used every year in the United States. This bill is a large step in helping New Jersey reduce pollution and protect the environment.

    What is Changing?

    New Jersey’s law bans plastic bags regardless of thickness and paper bags at grocery stores and retail outlets at grocery stores over 2,500 sq. ft. It also bans clamshell food containers and other products such a plates, cups, food trays and utensils; and makes plastic straws at restaurants available only upon request.

    Timeline:

    November 4, 2021 - Single-use straws available only upon request

    May 4, 2022 - Ban on polystyrene foam products including clamshell containers, plates, cups, food trays and utensils.

    May 4, 2022 - Ban on single-use plastic and paper bags in all stores and food service business statewide. 

    How It Affects You

    Everyone holds a personal responsibility in protecting the environment. Remember to bring your own reusable bag(s) when you shop! Using reusable bags and refusing single-use plastics, when offered at food service businesses, are great ways we can reduce the amount of trash we create. Start now to get in the habit.

    Reusable Bags


    Frequently Asked Questions


    Does the state law override local ordinances?

    Yes, once the implementation date (5/4/22) begins, the law will supersede and preempt any municipal or county rule. Local ordinances are in effect until the implementation of the state law for each product type. Existing ordinances for single-use bag and polystyrene food foam service products are active for 18 months. Existing local ordinances for straws are active for 12 months. Local ordinances can’t be enacted to be more stringent than state law.

    Are ALL bags banned?

    No, there are some plastic bags that are exempt from the ban:

    • Reusable plastic carryout bags with stitched handles
    • Bags used solely to wrap or hold raw meat, fish, or poultry
    • Bags used solely for loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, grains, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers or small hardware items
    • Bags used at pet stores to hold live animals, such as fish or insects
    • Bags used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order such as soup or hot food
    • A laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bag
    • A bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs
    • A newspaper bag


    What about foam products? When will they be banned? How will that work?

    After the initial ban on foam products takes effect (5/4/22), other products made from the same polystyrene material have another two-year grace period before being banned, starting in May 2024.

    They are:

    • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam spoons for thick drinks.
    • Small cups of 2 oz. or less if used for hot foods or food that need lids.
    • Meat, poultry and fish trays for raw meat.
    • Pre-packaged items in polystyrene. (e.g., Cup of Noodles)


    What are the penalties for not following the ban?

    • Any business violating the Act would get a warning or first offense, a fine up to $1,000 for a second offense and a fine of up to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense, to be collected through civil action.
    • 70% of the penalties will go to the State Clean Communities Fund.
    • 30% of the penalties will go to the municipality.
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