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7 things we learned the first week of NJ’s strict ban on plastic bags, Styrofoam




The New Jersey plastic bag ban is officially in effect, and NJ Advance Media has reported the first effect all week. Our reporters visited more than half a dozen large chains across the state and talked to dozens of shoppers about the experience. Along the way, there was much to learn about New Jersey’s strict ban on disposable plastic bags across the country.

The law, signed by Governor Phil Murphy on November 4, 2020, means that grocery stores, restaurants, schools, delicatessens, movie theaters, food trucks, retail stores and other businesses can no longer distribute or sell disposable plastic bags. It also restricts grocery stores from offering or selling paper bags. Since they went into effect Wednesday morning in all New Jersey stores, the reaction from shoppers has been mixed ̵[ads1]1; some welcome pressure to push for sustainability, while others said they were frustrated with the new rules. It’s clear that the law takes some time to get used to, so here are some takeaways from the first week that can help you adjust.

Customers want free reusable bags

Customers that NJ Advance Media spoke to in half a dozen stores across Garden State on Wednesday said reusable bags should be made available for free. Giveaways have been held by the non-profit NJ Clean Communities Council, but stores are not required to distribute them free of charge.

“I have a bag full of (reusable) bags,” said Paula Fortucci, 78, of Sicklerville as she visited the Wegmans in Cherry Hill. ‘I was ready. But they should make these reusable bags free for people. It’s not good that they charge for them. “

Mardel Zuniga, 35, from Maple Shade, shopped groceries with her 8-month-old and 2-year-old in the shopping cart. She was not aware that the recycling bags the shops had with the cadastre came with an extra fee. She hopes stores are considering arranging more giveaways, but prefers disposable plastic bags to be available in the meantime, she said.

“This is good, but it’s bad. It’s good. They’re trying to save the planet, but what are we going to do? It’s impractical. I must already remember to bring the baby bag and other things to them. Now I must remember to bring these.”

Reminders go a long way

Wegman’s parking lot in Cherry Hill provided a steady stream of customers with reusable bags in hand. Some customers did not have them when they first got out of the car, but when they saw a large sign in the grocery store’s parking lot (two at each grocery cart drop-off point), they stopped to take the reusable bags from the trunk.

ShopRite in Gibbstown had signs banning bags outside as well, except that these were on the glass windows. Those who were not aware of the ban did not see them until they reached the entrance. At the Walmart in Cherry Hill, the parking lot had no signs at all. However, an easel at the entrance to the store announced the ban, and the friendly staff reminded you of that when you entered.

It seemed that the parking lot signs would get far in both these places and other shops.

And you should make your own reminder. After unloading the goods at home, do not wait to return a stack of reusable bags to the car or bag for the next shopping trip. This will make it less likely that you will forget a bag in the future or be taken without a bag when you make an unexpected purchase.

Do not skip the bag, even for a quick run to the store

Just because you pick up a handful of items, does not mean you should automatically go without a bag. An innocent shopping trip can become a stressful juggling before you know it.

A croissant at Wegman’s bakery or a latte at Target Starbucks, for example, may tempt you to grab a bite to eat. This becomes a much more difficult suggestion when you have not bought or brought a reusable bag and you are balancing two or three items you have bought. So it can help to have at least one reusable bag anyway.

Plastic bag ban in NJ

MOM’s Organic Market in Paramus no longer provided disposable plastic or paper bags to its customers due to the bag ban in New Jersey. Wednesday, May 4, 2022.Paul Zimmerman | For NJ Advance Media

You can be creative

Shoppers seemed to adapt in the absence of plastic and paper bags at the cash register. For example, customers who visited Bergen city center in Paramus were observed using shopping bags they received from other retailers in the mall to keep items purchased from bagless stores such as Whole Foods Market and Target.

There were also a surprising number of people who simply walked out of the store, either with their goods or pushed their goods loose in a shopping cart – whether it is simply because it was the first day of the ban or indicates a consumer preference, is another case.

Free reusable bags would be appreciated

Customers that NJ Advance Media spoke to in half a dozen stores across Garden State on Wednesday said reusable bags should be made available for free. Giveaways have been held by the non-profit NJ Clean Communities Council, but stores are not required to distribute them free of charge.

“I have a bag full of (reusable) bags,” said Paula Fortucci, 78, of Sicklerville as she visited the Wegmans in Cherry Hill. ‘I was ready. But they should make these reusable bags free for people. It’s not good that they charge for them. “

Mardel Zuniga, 35, from Maple Shade, shopped groceries with her 8-month-old and 2-year-old in the shopping cart. She was not aware that the recycling bags the shops had with the cadastre came with an extra fee. She hopes stores are considering arranging more giveaways, but prefers disposable plastic bags to be available in the meantime, she said.

“This is good, but it’s bad. It’s good. They’re trying to save the planet, but what are we going to do? It’s impractical. I must already remember to bring the baby bag and other things to them. Now I must remember to bring these.”

Customers want convenience

One of the most common concerns about the plastic bag ban before it even came into force was that it would be to the detriment of consumers. Although shoppers certainly seemed to adapt this week, it was clear that shoppers just missed the convenience of throwing their belongings in an easily accessible plastic bag.

Bloomfield resident Carlos Pena walked out of the city’s Stop & Shop Wednesday morning with supplies for his daughter’s birthday party that day placed in a shopping cart. It was a minor strain, so he did not mind going without a bag this time, but Pena said he usually has “a lot more items” and relies on plastic bags for grocery stores to quickly pack his items.

It seems that affordable, plentiful and centrally located reusable bags that are available for purchase would go a long way towards winning over customers who once fell back on ubiquitous plastic bags.

Please, keep the cart deliveries full

As if there were not enough reasons to thank grocery store workers, dozens of laps took in and out of parking lots Wednesday in New Jersey. They reminded customers of the ban, but also – most importantly – kept the drop-off points for the shopping cart full.

This meant that people who came with a bushel of recycled bags or plastic bags from home immediately had a place to place them.

For more information on the ban visit nj.com/plasticbagban. Do you still have questions about New Jersey’s plastic bag ban? Ask them here.

Jackie Roman can be reached at jroman@njadvancemedia.com. Steven Rodas can be reached at srodas@njadvancemedia.com.



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