The countdown to New Jersey’s strict bag ban continues in less than two weeks until a series of new rules take effect at grocery stores, bodegas, restaurants, schools and stores Retail.

While the Garden State survived without single-use plastic bags before the 1980s, back then paper bags were there to (literally) carry the weight. This will not be the case everywhere at the beginning of May.

Here’s everything you need to know about where paper bags will be banned and allowed statewide when the ban begins May 4, and why.

What does the ban include?

Paper bags will be banned in grocery stores of 2,500 square feet or more, according to the law signed on November 4, 2020. The average grocery store is about 38,000 square feet.

Customers can opt for reusable bags, which are sold by major grocery chains, or bring their own bags from home.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection provides an FAQ sheet with more information here.

Stop and shop at Union. As of May 4, 2022, grocery stores, food service businesses and other retail stores in New Jersey are prohibited from providing or selling single-use plastic bags to customers. Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Patti Sapon | NJ advance media

Does the paper bag ban include big box stores?

“If the grocery store section is 2,500 square feet or more, then yes, they would be considered grocery stores and they would be prohibited from selling or providing single-use plastic and paper bags,” the doorman said. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna in NJ. Advanced media.

That includes your average target and Walmart, said JoAnn Gemenden, executive director of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council, a nonprofit that has focused on providing educational resources about the ban.

And yes, Trader Joe’s signature paper bags will also be restricted.

Why are paper bags included in the plastic bag ban?

Back when lawmakers were writing the plastic bag ban, the grocery industry lobbied for paper bags to be banned in large stores (again, not small delis and convenience stores) . Paper bags require more energy to produce than plastic bags, industry experts said, and they also cost stores more to store.

“There was a lot of discussion based on the other eight states that didn’t have plastic bags and they found that there weren’t enough customers bringing their own bags. They were just switching to paper bags. I commend the legislator for making a tough decision on this,” Gemenden said.

“We were the first state in the country to target both plastic and paper. Paper bags have their own carbon footprint and require a lot of energy to make, a lot of trees,” she added. “I know a lot of people are complaining that they won’t be available, but this is one way to make New Jersey a reusable bag state.”

Do people know that the ban includes paper bags in grocery stores?

Some do. Most don’t. Only 28% of residents know the bag ban will include paper bags in grocery stores, according to a new survey from Monmouth University.

“What could help (inform people) online are simple-to-read bullet points,” said Matthew Schuler, an assistant professor of biology at Montclair State University, who previously lived in Seattle when the city enacted its own ban. plastic bags in 2012.

“Some of the bullet points on government websites can be very long and complicated,” he added. “You just need to have very distinct points indicating exactly what is prohibited and where it will be prohibited with examples. Images also help, just have the image (of what is forbidden or allowed) available. This is an example of the item that would be prohibited.

What types of businesses that sell food can still use paper bags?

There are a number of stores that sell food that are not considered grocery stores, so they are still allowed to use paper bags. They are:

  • convenience stores
  • Coffees
  • Vending trucks or carts
  • food trucks
  • Movie theater
  • Institutional cafeterias (eg, cafeteria of a hospital, college, or office building)
  • Coffees
  • Delis
  • liquor stores
  • Retail stores (unless they have a 2,500 square foot grocery section)

Can I still buy brown paper and lawn bags?

Yes. Brown paper bag wrappers, such as packing a lunch, and large lawn bags will not be affected by the ban. Buyers can continue to purchase these bags as usual.

For more information on the ban, visit nj.com/plasticbagban. Still have questions about New Jersey’s plastic bag ban? Ask them here.

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Steven Rodas can be reached at [email protected].