N.J.’s plastic bag ban starts in a month. Stores will start reminding you soon.

Published: Apr. 03, 2022

Picture it.

You’re driving up to your favorite grocery store. List in hand. Shopping cart full. Everything’s going smoothly. Until you reach the register. It’s early May, New Jersey’s plastic bag ban has started and you were none the wiser.

Supermarkets and grocery chains told NJ Advance Media that they’re doing their best to limit that confusion when the time comes. With a number of changes taking effect in about a month, it may be inevitable that customers don’t know everything about what’s slated to be the nation’s strictest plastic bag ban. So preparing them for the new rules will be what’s key, store officials said.

When does the bag ban go into effect?

New Jersey will ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags and certain types of takeout food containers starting on May 4, 2022.

What will the bag ban include?

The ban will prohibit stores, including retail, from selling or providing single-use plastic bags for carry out purchases.

Non-grocery and retail stores — which the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection defines online — can still provide paper bags. Thus, clothing retailers and small bodegas are A-OK to hand over your purchase in a paper bag, or charge you for one.

However, large grocery stores — anything over 2,500 square feet — cannot give out or sell paper bags at the register. Most grocery stores are between 12,000 and 40,000 square feet, according to a trade publication.

New Jersey’s ban doesn’t cover single-use plastic bags that you can purchase. Garbage bags, pet waste bags, and Ziploc-style bags will still be all allowed in the state.

How are stores reminding customers of the plastic bag ban?

Signs in the parking lot. Reminders from the PA system. Social media posts.

Stores will have an array of strategies at the ready to tell customers that plastic bag ban is coming, remind them it’s days away and, finally, to say it’s arrived.

“Stop & Shop will have communication pieces at our stores beginning (in April) to assist in customer awareness of the statewide bag ban including signage and in-store radio,” said Stop & Shop spokeswoman Stefanie Shuman.

“Additionally, we are working on plans to offer free reusable bags on select days in our stores that coincide with the NJEDA Board’s approved NJ Food Desert Communities. Given the breadth of the state’s Bag Up NJ campaign, and overall focus on sustainability, we believe customers will be well-prepared for the transition,” Shuman added.

Email tips and social media posts reminding shoppers of the ban are also expected, experts told NJ Advance Media.

“We are helping customers prepare for the new statewide law that takes effect in May with in-store signage and reminders to ‘plan for the ban’ and bring reusable bags to shop in-store. ShopRite believes the best bag is a reusable bag and we continue to work to make sure our stores and customers are prepared when the law goes into effect,” said Karen O’Shea, a ShopRite spokeswoman.

Lidl currently sells bags starting at $0.07 per paper bag and $0.10 per plastic, a company spokesman said. However, this will no longer be allowed as of May 4.

“As a company, we encourage customers to bring their reusable bags when they shop,” said Chandler Spivey, a Lidl spokesman. “This is a win for the environment and for our customers because it encourages customers to bring their own bags with them when they shop, and the cost of the bags aren’t factored into the cost of products, which helps to keep our prices lower.”

The New Jersey Food Council, a lobbying group for grocery stores that specifically supported the inclusion of paper bag restrictions into the new law, also provides a downloadable social media toolkit online.

What can stores also do to help customers transition to the plastic bag ban?

If a major grocery chain were to call up Patrick Hossay and ask him how it could best help customers transition to New Jersey’s single-use plastic bag ban, he’d talk about cars.

“We don’t simply ban internal combustion engines; we provide a better alternative. That’s what electric vehicles are about, a more sustainable alternative,” said Hossay, a Stockton University professor and Chair of Sustainability and Energy Science at the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “It’s getting off the subject a little bit … but it’s about making it as easy as possible for the consumer and with that comes providing a reliable bag alternative.”

Here are some re-usable bags you can buy online:

“Imagine how much prettier roadsides would be without all this garbage on the side of the road, plastic bags are everywhere,” said Kerrie Sendall, an assistant biology professor at Rider University, who is looking forward to New Jersey’s plastic bag ban.

Sendall said besides helping to reduce illegal dumping on roads and in other public areas, the bag ban could help push the state to take further steps to be more sustainable.

But part of that mission will be helping busy people navigate the changes. And basic reminders will go a long way, she said.

“Having someone to remind people as they walk in the store. Say, ‘Hey, do you have reusable bags? If not, you should go grab them because we’re not giving out plastic bags anymore.’ A lot of people have them in their car and they just forget to bring them into the store,” said Sendall.

“That happens to a lot of us,” she said.

Still have questions about New Jersey’s plastic bag ban? Ask them here.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-04-04 02:56:15 -0700