NJDEP – Press Release 22/P014
(22/P014) TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette today urged the public to prepare for the state’s law on plastic bags and food service containers by Styrofoam that goes into effect May 4, just 30 days away, by stocking up on reusable bags and visiting DEP’s Get Past Plastic website. He also reminded catering businesses that another provision of the law requiring single-use plastic straws to be dispensed only upon customer request has been in effect since late last year.
“Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “Americans alone use some 100 billion plastic bags every year. While some of these bags are recycled, many end up in landfills and many more end up as litter that is harmful to our communities, ecosystems and wildlife. Unfortunately, these plastic bags make their way into our marine environments, killing fish, dolphins, whales, and other types of sea life.
“It is very important for all of us to work together to make a lasting difference in protecting our communities and the environment from plastic pollution,” added Commissioner LaTourette. “If you haven’t already, you should stock up on reusable bags and start using them right away. It will make things so much easier in the long run – and you’ll feel good doing it.
The NJ Clean Communities Council has worked closely with the state to educate the public and businesses through its BagUpNJ campaign.
“With the statewide bag ban arriving quickly on May 4, we urge all New Jersey shoppers to make it a routine to bring their own bags to the store every time they shop,” said JoAnn Gemenden, executive director of the Clean Communities Council. “It’s about creating new habits. Remember to keep your reusable bags in a handy place where you won’t forget them – and get used to using them, as we work together for a cleaner, litter-free New Jersey.
The law, signed by Governor Murphy in 2020, requires grocery stores and retail establishments to no longer provide single-use plastic bags to customers. Additionally, grocery stores of 2,500 square feet or more cannot provide customers with single-use paper bags. The law also prohibits the sale of styrofoam take-out food containers and other styrofoam catering products such as plates, cups, food trays and utensils.
The DEP’s new Get Past Plastic website offers a wealth of information on the law, including information on the types of reusable bags you should be using. It also includes information on the requirements for single-use plastic straws.
“We know businesses have been preparing all year for the May 4 start date for the Plastic Bag and Styrofoam Food Service Act,” said Melanie Willoughby, executive director of New Jersey Business Action. Center. “But there might still be questions from their customers, so NJBAC is here to help answer those questions on our 1-800-JERSEY–7 helpline. We want to ensure that companies and their customers benefit from a smooth transition.
As the state prepares to implement the law, DEP offers the following guidelines to assist the public:
What you need to know about plastic and reusable bags:
Supermarkets and groceries
These stores will no longer provide single-use plastic bags or paper bags for your groceries. Bring your own reusable bags or buy them at the store. (Stores under 2,500 square feet can still provide paper bags.) Reusable bags must be made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, fabric, hemp product or another washable fabric; have sewn handles; and be designed and manufactured for multiple reuses. The bags are available at most grocery stores and retailers, as well as through online merchants.
These stores will still be allowed to provide plastic bags to hold loose items such as uncooked meats, fruits, vegetables, flowers, greeting cards and other loose items. Each store will come up with its own plan to comply with the law. For more information, contact the store.
If you have single-use plastic bags at home, you can continue to use them at home or you can bring them when shopping. Only the grocery store is unable to provide single-use plastic or paper bags at checkout.
Take-out customers should be prepared to receive single-use paper bags as well as plastic hot food bags that are used to hold items such as soup and chili. Customers are recommended to bring their own reusable bag in case the restaurant no longer provides single-use paper bags. You can still receive your food in a paper bag at restaurants with drive-thru, but plastic bags will no longer be allowed. You can still get plastic utensils with meal orders as in the past. Table-service restaurants can provide “dog bags” made of any material except styrofoam.
Retail stores of any size can supply single-use paper bags to customers, but cannot supply single-use plastic bags. DEP encourages consumers to make a habit of bringing reusable bags when shopping at any retail store. Pharmacies can provide customers with single-use paper bags and can also use plastic bags to hold prescriptions. The DEP encourages consumers to bring reusable bags to pharmacies for other purchases.
Pantries and food banks
In recognition of the hardship the pandemic has imposed on many people, food pantries and food banks will have until November 4 to comply with the plastic bag provisions of the law under legislation recently signed by the Governor Murphy. The Clean Communities Council will provide them with 500,000 reusable bags to distribute. They can also provide paper bags.
What You Need to Know About Styrofoam Foodservice Containers
- You will no longer be able to purchase Styrofoam plates, cups or utensils. You will still be able to buy plastic utensils and plastic or paper plates and cups.
- Over the next two years, certain styrofoam foodservice products will be exempt from the law, including: raw and sliced meats, poultry and fish platters, portion cups two ounces or less, if they are used for hot foods or foods requiring covers. Foods pre-packaged by the manufacturer in a polystyrene foam container are also permitted for sale.
- Styrofoam catering products such as ice cream tubs, coffee mugs and soup containers will be prohibited. Food delivery can no longer be served or delivered in polystyrene. These foods can be delivered in other materials such as plastic, paper or aluminum products.