The countdown is on.

New Jersey is a little more than a month away from the start of a rule that will forever change the shopping habits of most New Jersey consumers.

Starting May 4, no retailer or food service provider will be able to give or sell you a single-use plastic bag at checkout. Paper bags will also be forbidden at bigger supermarkets.

The law was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in November 2020, giving businesses and residents 18 months to prepare for the big shift.

New Jersey consumers overall appear to be aware that the rule is set to kick in this year. Many, though, don't know if shopping without the paper-or-plastic option will ever come naturally.

This article begins a week-long New Jersey 101.5 series about the upcoming New Jersey ban on plastic bags, paper bags, and Styrofoam products.

"I'll have to bring some cloth bags against my will," said Spotswood resident Anne Dowd.

"It's going to be an issue," said Melissa Collins, a resident of Old Bridge. "I might have to make a bunch of trips back and forth, but we'll figure it out."

Since the law's signing, groups in the Garden State have been urging shoppers to stock up on reusable bags, so they're not blindsided by cost or delays when the rule kicks in.

Beachwood resident Alicia Stewart has been a reusable-bag shopper for about 2 years now. Like others, she made the choice because of plastic's impact on the environment, and she's happy about that choice because soon she won't have one.

"Everybody will just adjust and get used to it," she said. "You can fit a lot in these bags."

She still forgets to pack her reusable bags for grocery trips from time to time, but she knows that won't be an easy problem to solve once May 4 hits.

"I'm very excited about the upcoming ban," said Holmdel resident Alice Williams. "It's a long time coming and we need to get rid of all plastic bags."

"They're just rotting away on landfills and they're polluting the Earth and the oceans," added Carla Carter, of Westfield.

The ban blocks businesses from distributing plastic bags — as well as paper bags at grocery stores measuring more than 2,500 square feet — but it doesn't block shoppers from bringing their own single-use bags to stores. That's the saving grace of the law for shoppers who refuse to make the total switch to canvas or other materials.

"It doesn't matter to me because I've got a bag of bags under my kitchen sink that's going to last me a decade," said Deb Davis, of Edison.

Eliminating plastic bags from rotation, according to South Brunswick resident Ken Schnatter, doesn't do much for the world we live in if we're replacing them with heavier bags that require more power and effort to be produced.

"Is it something that's really smart, or is it something that's a knee-jerk reaction?" he said of New Jersey's law.

"The Earth's been here for 4 and a half billion years and now there's a war on plastic," said Kevin Irwin, of Old Bridge. "We have many other important things to focus on."

This isn't brand new territory for all of the Garden State. On day 2 of this series, we'll hear from towns and counties where some type of bag ban is already in place.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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