New Jersey lawmakers consider tweaking plastic bag ban as reusable bag plan causes 'problem'

New Jersey's ban on plastic bags was celebrated as a law that would address pollution

New Jersey lawmakers are considering amending the state’s ban on stores distributing single-use plastic bags due to residents amassing large numbers of reusable bags - which many times are just used once. 

"I keep them in the basement," New Jersey mom Katiuska Tejada-Rivera told NJ Advance Media. "I have another bag by the door in case I go out to the farmer’s market. Most of them are brand new, even have the tag on them. I use them one time but don’t throw them out."

It is a problem that has affected shoppers across the state - regardless of whether they wholeheartedly supported the ban or not - since the law took effect May 4. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy celebrated signing the ban into law back in 2020 as a way to address plastic pollution. 

"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 at the time. "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."  

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to reporters during a briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to reporters during a briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Now, some shoppers are describing having stockpiles of reusable bags, prompting lawmakers to contemplate altering the ban. 

"The only glitch so far that we’ve had (during the ban) is the fact that the home delivery of groceries has been interpreted to mean you have to do it in a reusable bag and what’s happening is the number of these bags are accumulating with customers," state Sen. Bob Smith, co-sponsor of the bill to ban plastic bags, told NJ Advance Media. "We know it’s a problem. We agree it’s a problem."

Some solutions that are being floated include: requiring at home grocery deliveries use cardboard boxes or paper bags.

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"Help is on the way, because we don’t want to see these reusable bags building up in customers’ homes," Smith said. 

He added: "We’ll listen to everybody and any solutions they have."

A shopper carries plastic bags in the Manhattan borough of New York City March 1, 2020.

A shopper carries plastic bags in the Manhattan borough of New York City March 1, 2020. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon )

One grocery store leader in South Jersey, Chris Mentzer, director of operations at Rastelli Market Fresh, said he would like to see paper bags be used for online orders. 

"We've had customers come in with stacks of bags 30, 40 deep like, 'Here can you please reuse these?' And we can't," Mentzer told ABC 6, noting the store cannot accept already used bags for sanitary reasons. 

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Murphy’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the matter. 

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement to ABC 6 that it will work to find ways to promote reusing the reusable bags. 

Phil Murphy, Governor-elect of New Jersey, speaks at his election night victory rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Nov. 7, 2017.  A sign for purchasing reusable shopping bags for $1.00 US dollar is shown at a farmers market in Oceanside, California, Oct. 30, 2014. 

Phil Murphy, Governor-elect of New Jersey, speaks at his election night victory rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Nov. 7, 2017.  A sign for purchasing reusable shopping bags for $1.00 US dollar is shown at a farmers market in Oceanside, California, Oct. 30, 2014.  (REUTERS/Dominick Reuter|REUTERS/Mike Blake )

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"While curbside and delivery services have expanded significantly between passage and implementation of the law, the Department intends to work with stakeholders and through the Plastics Advisory Council to find innovative ways that would promote the reusability of these bags," the department said.