New Jersey lawmakers consider changing plastic bag ban as reusable bag plan causes ‘problem’

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Representatives from New Jersey are considering changing the state’s ban on stores distributing single-use plastic bags because residents are hoarding large numbers of reusable bags – which are often used only once.

“I keep them in the basement,” New Jersey mom Katiuska Tejada-Rivera told NJ Advance Media. “I have another bag by the door in case I go to the market. Most of them are brand new, they even have the tags on them. I use them once, but I don’t throw them away.”

It’s a problem that has affected shoppers across the state — whether they wholeheartedly support the ban or not — since the law went into effect on May 4. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy celebrated signing the ban into law back in 2020 as a way to address plastic pollution.

“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of litter, leading to millions of discarded bags flowing into our landfills, rivers and oceans each year,” Murphy said at the time. “With today’s signing of historic legislation, we are confronting the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to reporters during a briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to reporters during a briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Now, some shoppers describe stockpiling reusable bags, prompting lawmakers to consider changing the ban.

“The only problem we’ve had so far (during the ban) is the fact that home delivery of groceries has been interpreted to mean you have to do it in a reusable bag, and what’s happening is that the number of those bags is piling up with customers. ,” state Sen. Bob Smith, co-sponsor of the plastic bag ban bill, told NJ Advance Media. “We know it’s a problem. We agree it’s a problem.”

Some solutions offered include: requiring the use of cardboard boxes or paper bags for home delivery of groceries.

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“Help is on the way, because we don’t want to see these reusable bags piling up in customers’ homes,” Smith said.

He added: “We will listen to any and all solutions they have.”

A shopper carries plastic bags in the Manhattan borough of New York on March 1, 2020.

A shopper carries plastic bags in the Manhattan borough of New York on March 1, 2020.
(REUTERS/Jeenah Moon)

One Store leader in South Jersey, Chris Mentzer, director of operations at Rastelli Market Fresh, said he would like to see paper bags used for online orders.

“We’ve had customers come in with stacks of bags 30, 40 deep like, ‘Can you reuse them?’ And we can’t,” Mentzer told ABC 6, noting the store can’t accept used bags for sanitary reasons.

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Murphy’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the matter.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement to ABC 6 that it will work to find ways to promote the reuse of reusable bags.

Phil Murphy, governor-elect of New Jersey, speaks at his election night victory rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey, November 7, 2017. A sign to buy reusable shopping bags for $1.00 is displayed at a farmers market in Oceanside, Calif. October 30, 2014

Phil Murphy, governor-elect of New Jersey, speaks at his election night victory rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey, November 7, 2017. A sign to buy reusable shopping bags for $1.00 is displayed at a farmers market in Oceanside, Calif. October 30, 2014
(REUTERS/Dominick Reuter|REUTERS/Mike Blake)

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“While shipping and delivery services have expanded significantly between the passage and implementation of the legislation, the Department intends to work with stakeholders and through the Plastics Advisory Council to find innovative ways to promote the reuse of these bags,” the Department said.

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