Shoppers caught unprepared, but some show support for N.J.’s new plastic bag ban

Published: May. 04, 2022

One customer walked out of ShopRite holding 20 bananas in his arms. “I completely forgot this was starting,” he remarked on the way to his car to escape the rain. “This is ridiculous.”

A regular at Acme Market strode into her local store with a reusable bag at the ready. ”It’s about time — that’s what everybody is saying, and I agree,” Victoria Laszlow said. “So I got to bring a bag of my own, I get to collect cute bags, what’s the problem?”

Mardel Zuniga, a mother with her children in cart at Walmart, was caught off guard when she arrived at the store to find the plastic bag rollers were empty. “You can buy these for 99 cents,” a store employee periodically announced to customers checking out.

As the ban on single-use plastic bags began Wednesday morning at all New Jersey stores, shoppers had a mixed bag of reactions.

Some were relieved New Jersey was taking more steps toward sustainability. Others said they were frustrated by the new rules or confused at what exactly the ban applied to.

The law, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Nov. 4, 2020, means grocery stores, restaurants, schools, delis, movie theaters, food trucks, retail stores and other businesses can no longer hand out or sell single-use plastic bags. It also restricts grocery stores from providing or selling paper bags. Paper bags will still be allowed at small stores like boutiques, bodegas and convenience stores.

Starting Wednesday, all eateries and stores in the Garden State must also stop providing or selling polystyrene products like cups and plates — commonly referred to as Styrofoam. Plastic straws, while not banned, can only be provided to customers at cafes and other businesses if they ask for them, according to a law that began in November.

Stores with excess plastic bags can recycle them or donate them to food pantries, which have a six-month reprieve from the ban.

“This sucks. I had to spend $10 for all these reusable bags. They took all the bags out, all the Styrofoam cups and plates. What they should at least do for the first week is give you a couple of reusable bags (for free),” said Rose Zane, a 70-year-old Pennsauken resident.

”I should have came yesterday and grabbed a bunch of plastic bags. I like those for garbage bins at home and lunch bags,” she added, as she loaded up her car at the Walmart in Cherry Hill.

Tanya Norton, of Englewood Cliffs, also hoped for a more gradual transition.

She arrived at the register at Acme with a week’s worth of groceries in her shopping cart and no plastic bags in sight. After some thought, she made the decision to forgo purchasing reusable bags — at least for today — and placed the items directly into her cart instead.

”I thought they would still finish the remaining bags at least, but they just took them all away,” Norton said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-05-05 03:26:19 -0700