7 Things We Learned in the First Week of NJ’s Strict Ban on Plastic Bags, Styrofoam

The plastic bag ban in New Jersey is officially in effect and NJ Advance Media has been reporting the initial impact all week. Our reporters visited more than half a dozen major chain stores across the state and spoke to dozens of shoppers about the experience. Along the way, there were plenty of lessons to be learned about the strict ban on single-use plastic bags in the state of New Jersey.

The law, signed by Governor Phil Murphy on November 4, 2020, means supermarkets, restaurants, schools, delis, movie theaters, food trucks, retail stores and other businesses are no longer allowed to distribute or sell single-use plastic bags. It also restricts supermarkets from dispensing or selling paper bags. Since they went into effect at all New Jersey stores Wednesday morning, shoppers have been mixed with some cheering the push toward sustainability, while others said they were frustrated with the new rules. Obviously the law will take some getting used to, so here are some tips from the first week to help you adjust.

Customers want free reusable bags

The customers NJ Advance Media spoke to at half a dozen stores in the Garden State on Wednesday said reusable bags should be made available free of charge. There have been giveaways held by the non-profit NJ Clean Communities Council, but stores are under no obligation to give them out for free.

“I have a suitcase full of (reusable) bags,” said Paula Fortucci, 78, of Sicklerville during a visit to Wegmans in Cherry Hill. “I was done. But they should make these reusable bags for free for people. It’s not right that they charge money for that.”

Mardel Zuniga, 35, of Maple Shade, went shopping with her 8 month old and 2 year old in the cart. Little did she know that the reusable bag stores near the tills came with an additional fee. She hopes stores will consider hosting more giveaways, but would prefer single-use plastic bags to be available in the meantime, she said.

“This is good, but it is bad. It’s good that they’re trying to save the planet, but what should we do? It’s inconvenient,” Zuniga said. “I’m already thinking about bringing the baby bag and other things for them. Now I have to remember to take these with me.”

Memories go a long way

Wegmans’ parking lot in Cherry Hill provided a steady stream of shoppers with reusable bags in hand. Some customers didn’t have them when they first got out of the car, but when they saw a large sign in the supermarket parking lot (two at each shopping cart drop-off location), they stopped to grab their reusable bags from their trunk.

The ShopRite in Gibbstown also had signs forbidding bags outside, except they were on the glass windows. Those unaware of the ban only saw them at the entrance. At Walmart in Cherry Hill, the parking lot had no signs at all. However, a donkey at the entrance of the shop advertised the ban and the friendly staff reminded you as you entered.

It looked like parking signs at both locations and other stores would go a long way.

And you have to make your own memory. After you unload your belongings at home, you don’t have to wait to return a stack of reusable bags in your car or purse for the next shopping trip. This makes it less likely that you will forget a bag in the future or be caught without a bag on an unexpected purchase.

Don’t skip the bag even for a quick flight to the store

Just because you’re only picking up a handful of items doesn’t mean you should automatically go bagless. An innocent day of shopping can turn into a stressful juggling act before you know it.

A croissant at the Wegmans bakery or a latte at the Target Starbucks, for example, can tempt you into a quick bite. This becomes a much more difficult proposition if you haven’t bought or brought a reusable bag and you’re balancing between two or three items you’ve bought. So it can help to have at least one reusable bag, no matter what.

MOM’s Organic Market in Paramus no longer supplied single-use plastic carrier bags or paper carrier bags due to the New Jersey bag ban. Wednesday, May 4, 2022.Paul Zimmerman | For NJ Advance Media:

You can be creative

Shoppers seemed to adapt to the lack of plastic and paper bags at the checkout. For example, customers visiting Bergen city center in Paramus were observed carrying shopping bags given to them from other retailers in the mall to hold goods purchased from bagless stores such as Whole Foods Market and Target.

There was also a surprising amount of people who simply walked out of the store, either with their items in their hands or pushing their goods loose in a shopping cart – whether that’s simply because it was the first day of the ban or that indicates a consumer preference. another matter.

Customers want convenience

One of the most common concerns about the plastic bag ban before it came into effect was that it would disturb consumers. While shoppers certainly seemed to be adjusting this week, it was clear shoppers lacked the convenience of tossing their belongings into a readily available 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 in a shopping cart. It was a smaller load, so he didn’t mind going bagless this time, but Pena said he usually has “a lot more items” and relies on plastic shopping bags to pack his goods quickly.

It seems that affordable, plentiful and centrally located reusable bags for sale would go a long way in winning over customers who once fell back on the ubiquity of plastic bags.

Keep the cart drop-offs full, please

As if there weren’t enough reasons to thank grocery store workers, dozens of Wednesdays circled in and out of New Jersey parking lots. They reminded customers of the ban, but also – more importantly – kept the shopping cart drop-off points full.

This meant that people who arrived with a bushel of reusable bags or plastic bags from home could immediately put them somewhere.

For more information about the ban, visit nj.com/plasticbagban† Still have questions about the plastic bag ban in New Jersey? 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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