The State of New Jersey issued a press release last month¹ that urges state-operated businesses to begin preparations now for a single-use plastics ban, which becomes effective on May 4, 2022. The ban will include single-use carryout bags and polystyrene foam food-service products in stores and food-service businesses. Starting Nov. 4, 2021, food service businesses will only be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws by customer request.
On November 4, 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law P.L. 2020, c117, which prohibits single-use plastic carryout bags and single-use paper carryout bags in grocery stores that occupy at least 2,500 square feet. The new law aims to reduce waste and pollution and protect New Jersey’s environment. The law requires businesses that sell or provide reusable bags that meet the following criteria:
- Made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric; and
- Constructed with stitched handles; and
- Designed and manufactured for multiple reuses.
Additional single-use products that will be exempt from the ban for an additional two years, until May 4, 2024, include:
- Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
- Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
- Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish; and
- Any food products that are pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food-service product.
New Jersey has joined several other states with plastic bag bans. Northeastern states with plastic bag bans include New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Vermont, and Maine. Western states with similar bans include Hawaii, California, and Oregon. Finally, several major cities also have their own plastic bag regulations.
All these bans have a common theme of relieving pressure on landfills by reducing waste and mitigating associated environmental impacts from bag manufacturing and litter in oceans, lakes, forests, and their wildlife inhabitants.
While many in New Jersey are accustomed to bringing reusable bags to the supermarket, the new law presents new challenges to the food-service industry. In particular, since the COVID-19 lockdowns last year, many people have enjoyed home delivery of meals packaged in the very products that will no longer be available to businesses or the public under the single-use plastics ban. To help New Jersey businesses prepare for implementation of the new law, the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) and the NJDEP provide online resources (see www.nj.gov/dep/dshw/plastic-ban-law/).