7 Things We Learned The First Week Of NJ’s Strict Ban On Plastic Bags, Styrofoam
New Jersey’s plastic bag ban is officially in effect, and NJ Advance Media has been reporting on its initial impact all week. Our reporters visited more than half a dozen major chains across the state and spoke to dozens of shoppers about the experience. Along the way, there were a lot of lessons to be learned from New Jersey’s strict ban on single-use plastic bags statewide.
The law, signed by Governor Phil Murphy on November 4, 2020, means grocery stores, restaurants, schools, delis, movie theaters, food trucks, retail stores and other businesses can no longer distribute or sell single-use plastic bags. It also prohibits grocery stores from providing or selling paper bags. Since it went into effect Wednesday morning in all New Jersey stores, reaction from shoppers has been mixed — some welcome the push toward sustainability while others say they’re frustrated with the new rules. It’s clear that the law will take some getting used to, so here are some takeaways from week one that might help you adjust.
Customers want free reusable bags
Customers NJ Advance Media spoke to at half a dozen stores across the Garden State on Wednesday said reusable bags should be made available free of charge. Giveaways have been organized by the nonprofit NJ Clean Communities Council, but stores are not required to give them away for free.
“I have a trunk full of (reusable) bags,” said Paula Fortucci, 78, of Sicklerville during a visit to Wegmans in Cherry Hill. “I was ready. But they should make these reusable bags free for people. It’s not fair that they charge for them.
Mardel Zuniga, 35, from Maple Shade, went shopping with her 8-month-old and 2-year-old children in a trolley. She didn’t know that reusable bag stores had extra charges. She hopes stores consider organizing more freebies, but prefers single-use plastic bags to be available in the meantime, she said.
“It’s good but it’s bad. It’s good that they’re trying to save the planet but what are we supposed to do? It’s not practical,” Zuniga said. I already have to remember to bring the baby bag and other things for them. Now I have to remember to bring them.
Reminders go a long way
The Wegmans car park in Cherry Hill had 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 grocery store parking lot (two at each grocery cart drop-off point), they stopped to retrieve their reusable bags from their trunks.
The ShopRite in Gibbstown also had no bag signs outside, except these were on the windows. Those unaware of the ban did not see them until they reached the entrance. At Walmart in Cherry Hill, the parking lot had no sign. However, an easel at the entrance to the store announced the ban and the friendly staff reminded you when you entered.
It seemed that at both of these locations and other stores the parking signs would go a long way.
And, you should do your own reminder. After unloading your items at home, don’t wait to put a stack of reusable bags back in your car or purse for the next shopping spree. This will make it less likely that you will forget a bag in the future or find yourself without a bag when making an unexpected purchase.
Don’t skip the bag, even for a quick run to the store
Just because you’re only picking up a handful of items doesn’t mean you should automatically go without a bag. An innocent shopping spree can turn into a stressful act of juggling before you know it.
A croissant at Wegmans Bakery or a latte at Target Starbucks, for example, can inspire you to grab a quick snack. It becomes a much tougher proposition when you haven’t purchased or brought a reusable bag and are balancing two or three items you have purchased. It can therefore be useful to have at least one reusable bag no matter what.
You can get creative
Shoppers seemed to be adjusting to the lack of plastic and paper bags at checkout. For example, shoppers visiting downtown Bergen in Paramus have been observed using shopping bags they received from other mall retailers to hold goods purchased from bagless stores like Whole. Foods Market and Target.
There were also a surprising number of people simply walking out of the store holding their items or pushing them in a shopping cart – whether it was just because it was the first day of the ban or it signified a consumer preference. , that’s another matter.
Customers want comfort
One of the most common concerns about the plastic bag ban even before it came into force was that it would inconvenience consumers. While shoppers certainly seemed to be adjusting this week, it was clear shoppers were just missing out on the ease of tossing their belongings into a readily available plastic bag.
Bloomfield resident Carlos Pena walked out of the city’s Stop & Shop on Wednesday morning with supplies for his daughter’s birthday party that day placed in a basket. 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 bags of groceries in plastic to quickly pack his goods.
It seems that affordable, plentiful and centrally located reusable bags available for purchase would go a long way in winning over customers who once fell back on the ubiquity of plastic bags.
Keep cart deposits full, please
As if there weren’t enough reason to thank grocery store workers, dozens of people lined parking lots in New Jersey on Wednesday. They reminded customers of the ban, but also – importantly – refilled shopping cart drop-off points.
This meant that people arriving with a bushel of reusable bags or plastic bags from home immediately had a place to put them.
For more information on the ban, visit nj.com/plasticbagban. Still have questions about New Jersey’s plastic bag ban? Ask them here.
Jackie Roman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Steven Rodas can be reached at email@example.com.
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