🔴 Study finds NJ saves 5.51 billion plastic bags per year

🔴 Another study claims plastic consumption has tripled

🔴 New program recycles reusable bags

TRENTON — New Jersey's ban on plastic bags is one of the most effective bans of its kind in the country and saves shoppers from using billions of plastic bags each year, according to a new study.

New Jersey's ban on single-use carryout bags went into effect on May 4, 2022.

Shoppers on average used nearly 459 million fewer plastic bags each month for the remainder of 2022, according to the study co-published last month by Environment America, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, and Frontier Group

That comes out to around 5.51 billion plastic bags each year and 594 bags saved per person per year.

Plastic bag ban impacts (Canva)
Plastic bag ban impacts (Canva)

That's more than the other four states and cities that were included in the study. The next closest was Santa Barbara, California with around 490 bags saved per person each year.

When including Philadelphia, Vermont, and Portland, Oregon, the average number was around 300 bags saved per person each year.

Plastic bag ban works

"The single-use plastics law was designed to reduce litter relative to all those plastic bags blowing down the street. And I think we can all agree that it's done that," said JoAnn Gemenden, executive director of the NJ Clean Communities Council.

Linda Doherty, president of the New Jersey Food Council, also said that the ban has reduced plastic bag use and the litter that comes with it.

Plastic Bag Ban
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

"Today, shoppers don’t see single-use bags blowing in the wind, wrapped around tree branches, littering beaches or discarded in a shopping cart," said Doherty.

Study claims plastic consumption has tripled

Another study claims that plastic use has increased due to the plastic bag ban.

The shift to produce reusable bags nearly tripled plastic use and led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study published last month by Freedonia Group.

It also claimed the average reusable bag is only used two to three times before being thrown away.

The study was commissioned by the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance.

Single-use plastic bags at a ShopRite in Lyndhurst on 5/3/22. May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Single-use plastic bags at a ShopRite in Lyndhurst on 5/3/22. May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

The group, headquartered in Washington D.C., represents the interests of plastic bag manufacturers, according to its website and a Politico report.

"Let’s keep the Washington D.C plastic bag industry from undermining the achievements of a robust and successful bag program in the Garden State that is keeping our waterways and parks clean, parking lots free of flimsy plastic bags and benefiting all New Jerseyans," said Doherty.

New program recycles reusable bags

Instead of plastic bags piling up, some people now have an overabundance of reusable bags.

The new online Reusable Bag Resource Center makes it convenient to donate excess reusable bags to New Jersey food pantries. The website, which can be accessed by a QR code, includes information on where to drop off extra bags, how they should be cleaned, and other information.

Many food pantries have drive-thru or walk-up food collections; being able to pre-pack the food makes it much easier for families to get the food they need.

Canva/NJ Food Council
Canva/NJ Food Council

"They have worked with us and told us that they will never not have a need for reusable bags. So they're very grateful to have an abundant supply of bags that are clean and sanitized before it gets to them," said JoAnn Gemenden with the NJ Clean Communities Council.

Several grocery store chains including Acme, ShopRite, Stop & Shop, are already including the QR code on their receipts.

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