NJ Governor Signs Bag Ban Into Law

Plastic restaurant takeout bag

The State of New Jersey just got much tougher on single-use plastic products. In early November, with the stroke of a pen, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s signed S864, which will prohibit the use of single-use plastic and paper bags in all stores and foodservice businesses statewide in less than two years. A press statement issued by the state calls its new law “the strongest bag ban in the nation.”

Starting May 2022, both plastic and paper single-use bags, as well as disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam, will be banned. “Paper bags require resources and energy to produce, contributing to pollution. Moving forward, the focus throughout the state will be on using reusable bags,” the state’s news release explains.

Under the new law, foodservice businesses will be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws only upon request starting November 2021.

The following products will be exempt for an additional two years after May 2022:

  • 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 that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance

  • Any food product prepackaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product

  • Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by Department of Environmental Protection.

“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans,” said Governor Murphy. “With [this] historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

Some restaurants and food establishments will be eligible for exemptions. If a business earns less than $500,000 a year or if, as the bill states, “there is no feasible and commercially available alternative for a specific polystyrene foam food service product,” New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection will be able to authorize exemptions “for a period not to exceed one year.”

Read the full text of S864.

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