How does this law impact my business?
New Jersey retail stores, grocery stores and food service businesses may not provide or sell single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products. Single-use paper carryout bags are allowed to be provided or sold, except by grocery stores equal to or larger than 2,500 square feet, which may only provide or sell reusable carryout bags. Plastic straws may be provided only upon the request of the customer. Find out if you are impacted by this ban.
Affected businesses must use reusable carryout bags that:
- Are made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric, and
- Have stitched handles (either thread or ultrasonic, T-Shirt bags are permitted), and
- Are designed and manufactured for at least 125 reuses.
Affected businesses must also use food service items that are not made of polystyrene, more commonly known as styrofoam.
The state has provided a database of vendors who can provide alternative products.
Alternatives to Polystyrene (Styrofoam)
Polystyrene, more commonly known as styrofoam, is no longer permitted for food service use in New Jersey.
If you are interested in choosing the most environmentally friendly option for your business, please use the hierarchy below to help you make a purchasing choice.
Tier 1: The best alternatives
The best alternatives to styrofoam products are products that never enter the waste stream.
- Durable, reusable products that can be washed and later provided to many other customers
- Food service products that are consumed by the customer, such as bread bowls
Tier 2: Compostable materials
Compostable materials are made of organic compounds that decompose naturally into soil, usually within 90 days of disposal. The Biodegradable Products Institute maintains a directory of certified compostable products that includes food service items.
Ideally, these materials should be disposed separately from other refuse and composted. Businesses may be able to donate compost at community gardens or similar organizations.
Tier 3: Paper products
Paper products have a lower environmental impact than polystyrene and other plastics. Like compostable products, they will decompose in the environment, though not as quickly as products that are specifically designed to be compostable.
Clean paper products can be recycled with other paper. Paper products heavily contaminated with food, such as grease-stained pizza boxes, can not be recycled. This is also true for wax or plastic coated paper products.
Tiers 4 and 5: Recyclable products
Products that use recycled content in their production and can be recycled are another alternative to polystyrene/styrofoam products.
Using products that include recycled content helps the recycling industry and keeps used material out of landfills. Recyclable products are widely accepted by New Jersey recyclers if they are free of food waste or other contaminants.
Tier 6: Marginally recyclable materials
Marginally recyclable materials refers to products that may be marked as recyclable, but they are not widely accepted for recycling in New Jersey and will likely end up in landfills after use. Examples include aluminum products, which may include recycled content, but are not recyclable after contamination with food waste.
Tier 7: Least preferred
The least environmentally friendly products contain no recycled content and are difficult to recycle after use. These products have large environmental impacts due to the extraction of raw materials, transportation from manufacturer to consumer, and high likelihood of disposal in landfills. They typically comprise raw materials that must be drilled, refined, and manufactured from non-renewable petroleum resources and will persist in the environment if not responsibly managed at the end of their useful life.
Examples may include black or dark colored plastics, which are permitted in the State but are difficult to sort at recycling facilities. These plastics commonly end up in landfills.
To stay on track, read the banned bag and polystyrene foam ban timeline for all critical dates as defined by the law. It is recommended that interested parties print a copy of this timeline and keep it posted in order to keep track of the deadlines.
If you need additional support, The New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) offers a live chat on this website from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The live chat is answered by New Jersey-based business experts who can assist in providing answers to your questions.
The NJBAC is also offering virtual “roundtables”, or webinars, available to all organizations interested in educating their constituencies about the new law. Please contact Melanie.Willoughby@sos.nj.gov to request a roundtable.
With the ban, New Jersey takes a leadership role in addressing the problem of plastic pollution with solutions to protect the environment for future generations. Most single-use plastic carryout bags end up in landfills, are incinerated or accumulate in the environment. They litter and degrade the quality of waterways and oceans where they do not biodegrade, and through photodegradation release chemicals into the environment that are harmful to human health. This negatively impacts major contributors to the New Jersey economy such as the tourism, fishing, shipping industries and recreation.
Single-use paper carryout bags have been found to have a significant impact on the environment by requiring large inputs of water, energy, chemicals, and wood to produce them. Reusable carryout bags made of materials specified in the law provide a durable, hygienic, and environmentally-friendly alternative.
Businesses and others that violate the law will be warned for their 1st offense. 2nd offenses can receive fines up to $1,000/day. Fines can continue to increase up to $5,000/day for the 3rd and subsequent offenses. If your business persistently violates the law, separate rules may apply.
You have up to 30 days to comply with each offense unless there are individual circumstances.
Any penalty collected shall be remitted to the State Treasurer for deposit in the Clean Communities Program Fund. A municipality or entity certified pursuant to County Environmental Health Act (CEHA) may retain 30% of any penalties it collects.
The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is responsible for the overall implementation of the law including the adoption of implementing regulations. The NJDEP, along with Municipalities, CEHA and the Department of Health are responsible for enforcement of the law. In coordination with the NJDEP, the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) is responsible for communicating with all businesses their responsibilities for compliance under the law, and the New Jersey Clean Communities Council (NJCCC) is responsible for developing and implementing a Statewide public information and education program including limited distribution of free reusable bags.