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New Jersey plastic bag ban is a leader in reducing pollution

By Jennifer M. Coffey and Ed Potosnak

New Jersey’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act is an absolute success. In less than a year from the law’s May 2022 implementation, ghost plastic bags fell off the top 10 list of most common litter items collected in cleanups. On average, Americans use 500 single-use plastic bags annually. In New Jersey, we drastically reduced our plastic consumption by cutting an average of 594 plastic bags per person and took a giant leap toward clean, reusable commerce. Polystyrene food containers, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, were also banned along with plastic bags. Polystyrene leaks cancer-causing pollutants into food when heated, resulting in a toxic bouillabaisse of chemicals in your coffee, soup, and alongside your side of fries. New Jersey’s residents and environment are safer and healthier because of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.

A recent comprehensive national study by Environment America, cited by the World Economic Forum, recognizes New Jersey’s plastic bag ban as the most effective of the 10 states in America with such bans.“A sample of 160 New Jersey grocery stores reported plastic bag consumption data to the New Jersey Food Council (NJFC), a grocery store industry group, before and after the ban was in place, suggesting sampled grocery stores saved 55 million bags per month in total, which translates to 343,750 plastic bags saved per store per month and ~11,500 plastic bags saved per store per day,” according to the Environment America report.

The bottom line is, the Garden State is home to the most successful and strongest Plastic Pollution Reduction Act in the country. New Jersey’s law is the product of citizen action and more than 180 local ordinances that banned plastic bags and other single-use items. New Jersey is now cleaner, greener, and healthier because we are drastically reducing plastic pollution.

Plastic is, however, a big money business. As we transition away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy and electric vehicles, the fossil fuel industry is working to reinvent and reinvest itself in the creation of more single-use plastic. The fossil fuel industry sees plastics as a key revenue savior. That explains the recent shenanigans of a plastic bag advocacy industry group that produced its own report, and without any scientific citations, sought to discredit the effectiveness of New Jersey’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. Since we’re the most effective, they’re coming for us. New Jersey is smarter than that, though.

Garden State residents can see the difference. There are phenomenally fewer plastic bags stuck in trees and clogging storm sewers than there were before 2022. And we’re not done yet.We’re going to continue to advance policies to improve public health and protect our environment by reducing excessive packaging, making it easier to reuse and refill containers and bottles, and most importantly of all hold plastic polluters responsible. We now have microplastics in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and in every habitat on land and sea where scientists look. Enough is enough.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, New Jersey is going to hold polluters responsible and continue to lead the way toward a plastic pollution-free future. If you see any stores that you believe are not in compliance with the plastic bag ban or other aspects of New Jersey’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, please report it to 1-877-Warn NJDEP.