N.J. Gov. Murphy Signs Nation's Strongest Single-Use Bag Ban Into Law

Person carrying plastic bags

TRENTON, N.J. — Say goodbye to single-use plastic and paper bags in all New Jersey stores.

On Nov. 4, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation prohibiting the use of the bags at retail as well as foodservice businesses — including c-stores, restaurants, food trucks and grocery stores measuring at least 2,500 square feet— across the state. The law goes into effect in May 2022.

"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," Murphy said. "With today's 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."  

In addition to the bag ban, the measure prohibits the use of disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam. Moving forward, the focus throughout the state will be on using reusable bags, according to the governor's office.

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 pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product; and
  • Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The new law also takes aim at straws: Beginning in November 2021, foodservice businesses will only be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws upon request.

With the stroke of Murphy's pen, New Jersey became the state with the most stringent single-use bag law.

State lawmakers approved the legislation in September. The legislation was sponsored by state Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), and Assemblymen James Kennedy (D- Middlesex, Somerset, Union) and John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris), as Convenience Store News previously reported.

"Nearly 40 towns in New Jersey have banned plastic bags, and many others have passed ordinances addressing their use," McKeon said.  "This new law supports community efforts to reduce litter and protect their environments. The reality is disposable plastics are causing damage to our environment. Anything we can do to curb its effects will help us better protect our oceans, our communities, our health, and to fight climate change."