TRENTON, N.J. – The Garden State is now home to the newest ban designed to curb the use of wasteful bags that leaders say are some of the most problematic forms of garbage.
The regulations went into effect on Wednesday and prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags, disposable food containers made out of polystyrene foam and paper bags.
Leaders say the rules are some of the toughest in the country and are meant to reduce environmental pollution and wasted space in landfills.
Some polystyrene products such as spoons, lids, trays and items deemed necessary by regulators will get an additional two-year grace period before they too could banned,
Smaller stores will still be allowed to use single-use paper bags.
Violators of the new law will first be subject to a warning, followed by a fine of up to $1,000 for a second offense and could face fines of up to $5,000 for additional violations.
New Jersey is the ninth state to ban plastic bags, with Colorado inline to join its predecessors by January 2024.
Effectiveness of regulations
Experts at the WorldWatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental research organization, estimate that Americans throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags each year, with only about one to three percent of bags being recycled.
With more cities and states hopping on the bandwagon of bans, questions surround whether they are effective enough.
A report published in 2019 by Scientist Action and Advocacy Network examined the impacts of the regulations, and the results were surprising.
Experts concluded where a one-use bag tax was enforced, usage of the non-eco-friendly bags dropped by half, and consumers generally warmed to the idea of implementation of environmentally friendly policies.
Researchers found the effectiveness of both the tax and other regulations were greatly reduced when an alternative bag source was not prohibited.
Shoppers avoided regulations by using paper bags or other versions of plastic bags not covered under the law.
The report cited occurrences in Austin, Texas and San Francisco for being examples of where shoppers shifted to other non-eco-friendly bag alternatives, after a plastic bag ban established.