Jersey City single-use plastic bag ban goes into effect

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

The next time you go shopping in Jersey City, you may want to have an extra bag on hand to carry your items or you may have to pay for a reusable bag at checkout.

That’s because the city’s single-use plastic bag ban officially took effect Friday at all retail and food establishments. Jersey City is now the largest city in the state to implement the ban.

“If a place like Jersey City can accomplish it with our size and diversity and different communities, there’s no reason that the entire state of New Jersey can’t achieve the same,” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said.

Several towns in New Jersey have already banned single-use plastic bags, while others have opted for a 5- or 10-cent fee on customers who use them.

Last August, Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill that would have placed a statewide fee on single-use, carryout plastic and paper bags. He said the bill didn’t go far enough. Stricter legislation is under consideration.

Fulop celebrated the new law going into effect by handing out free, reusable bags at the city’s ShopRite. Under the new law, if a customer checks out and does not have a bag with them, they will temporarily be provided with a reusable plastic bag.

Store Manager Peter Cavo says they spent about five weeks preparing customers, using a daily countdown poster, having staff wear shirts promoting the ban and placing reusable bags for sale near the register.

“What we found through bans in other locations that if a fee is not charged people are less likely to reduce and reuse,” said Cavo.

It’s up to each individual retailer to decide how they want to approach the ban and whether or not they want to charge for bags. They don’t actually have to provide a bag at all, but if they do decide to provide a bag it has to meet requirements,” said Katherine Lawrence, director of the Jersey City Office of Sustainability.

Lawrence says there are exceptions to the ban.

“For example, for pharmacies if they’re giving you prescription drugs they are allowed to continue to use plastic bags. If you need a plastic bag because you have raw meat, that’s something that’s an exception that can be made as well. But in general it apply to all businesses throughout Jersey City, whether they be retail, whether they’re restaurants, small, large, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

While the reusable plastic bags are an option for shoppers, ShopRite is hoping that customers will start adjusting to the new law by bringing their own reusable bags.

“You start to learn, ‘OK I’m going into the ShopRite, I’m going to bring my reusable bag.’ I think the change might not be as quick as maybe Hoboken, but I have faith in our customers and I appreciate that they are willing to do this to help the environment and kind of do this with us. And that’s our goal, to make sure everyone transition easily,” said Lindsey Inserra, health and wellness director of Inserra Supermarkets, which owns the ShopRite.

The new law received mixed reaction from Jersey City residents.

“As far as the environment goes, these things are a killer as far as it comes to aquatic animals and just the air that we breathe,” said Jersey City resident Jose Espada.

“When you start something new it’s hard for you, you know. But you have to handle it, that’s it, no choice,” said Miguel Torres.

ShopRite will be handing out free bags for the next two weeks to help people adjust to the new law.