New Jersey businesses told to prepare for the state’s ban of single-use plastic products

by Ricky Rillera

| Photo by MTSOfan via Flickr/Wikimedia

NEW JERSEY — While it is still a year away from implementing its ban on plastic products, New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette have recently joined forces to encourage business owners to prepare for the launch of the ban now.

Beginning May 4, 2022, New Jersey will prohibit single-use carryout bags and polystyrene foam foodservice products in stores and foodservice businesses following P.L. 2020, c117. The public law, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Nov. 4, 2020, is designed to reduce pollution and protect New Jersey’s environment and economy for generations to come.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), eight states —California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont— have banned single-use plastic bags.

Under the new law, polystyrene foam foodservice products and foods sold or provided in polystyrene foam foodservice products will also be banned as of May 4, 2022, and foodservice businesses will only be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws by request starting Nov. 4, 2021.

However, the following products will be exempt for an additional two years, until May 4, 2024:

• 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 pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam foodservice product; and
• Any other polystyrene foam foodservice product as determined necessary by the DEP

“We love New Jersey beaches, forests and waterways, and we want to protect them for current and future resident and visitors to enjoy,” Secretary Way said. “We’re here to support New Jersey’s businesses as they make the transition to reusable bags. We understand that these changes take time. We’ll be here to help business owners understand the law and answer any question they may have as we look ahead to May 2022.”

Beginning May 4, 2022, New Jersey businesses may not sell or provide single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers. Those businesses that decide to sell or provide reusable carryout bags must ensure that the bags meet the requirements as defined in the law.

The law defines reusable bags as ones that:

  • Are made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric; and
  • Have stitched handles; and
  • Are designed and manufactured for multiple reuses.

To help New Jersey businesses prepare for the new requirements, the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), part of the New Jersey Department of State, and the DEP have developed online resources.

The State’s business-focused website and the DEP website feature the latest information on the law. The business experts on the NJBAC website’s Live Chat and at 1-800-Jersey-7 are available 8 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday, for the information you need to comply with the new law.

Future resources for businesses on the website will include listing vendors who sell reusable carryout bags that meet the new requirements. In addition, the NJBAC will be conducting virtual roundtables discussing the implementation of the law with Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations around the State.

Meanwhile, in 2019, New York became the third state to ban plastic bags with Senate Bill 1508. In effect March 2020, the law applies to most single-use plastic bags provided by grocery stores and other retailers. Bags distributed at the meat/deli counter and bulk food area are exempt, and newspaper bags, trash bags, garment bags, bags provided by a pharmacy for prescription drugs, and restaurant takeout bags. The law allows individual counties to place a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

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