NJ State Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Effect May 4th - What You Need To Know

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Photo credit: NJ State

In NJ, the ban on the sale and use of single-use plastic and paper carryout bags will go into effect on May 4th.   Governor Murphy signed the law last November, which prohibits NJ retail stores, grocery stores and food service businesses statewide from providing both single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products.  The state law supersedes any previous law or regulation made by municipalities.

Single-use paper bags can be sold or provided, except by grocery stores that are 2,500 square feet or larger.  Larger grocery stores may only provide or sell reusable bags that meet specific requirements.  The law defines a “reusable carryout bag” as made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, cloth, hemp, nylon or other washable fabric.  It also must have stitched handles and be designed for a minimum of 125 reuses.

Businesses that fail to comply will face an initial warning that could potentially escalate to daily fines. There are bag exemptions however, including a bag used to:

  • Hold uncooked meat, fish, or poultry
  • Carry loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, baked goods, candy and flowers
  • Carry laundry or dry cleaning, prescriptions from a pharmacy, or for newspapers

    A "polystyrene foam food service product" is defined as a product made of polystyrene foam used to carry a food or beverage including a food container, plate, cup, meat or vegetable tray, cutlery, or egg carton.  There are also exemptions for the polystyrene products until May 4, 2024 that include:

    • Disposable polystyrene foam soda or thick drink spoons
    • Portion cups under two ounces when used for hot foods or those with lids
    • Meat/fish trays for raw meat and any food pre-packaged by a manufacturer

    Businesses can also request a waiver to continue use of polystyrene products if they have less than $500,000 in gross annual income and no affordable alternative can be found.  The waiver must be approved in writing by the DEP.

    To learn more about the specific guidelines, click here to visit the NJ State DEP website.

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