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The big New Jersey bag ban

Effective Wed May 4, the State of New Jersey will restrict the types of bags and containers that retail stores and food-service establishments may provide to their customers.

The goal of the ban, which is the product of years of negotiations and compromises and was approved by the legislature in November 2020, is to cut down on litter that inundates New Jersey’s beaches and riverfronts.


  • On and after Wed May 4, plastic carry-out bags can no longer be given out or sold in any store or restaurant. Exception: Plastic tote bags with stitched handles.
  • Paper bags cannot be given out in supermarkets or big-box stores that have grocery sections.
  • Polystyrene foam food containers, including clamshell boxes and coffee cups, can no longer be given out. Plastic straws? Available only upon request.


Q: I have a stash of plastic bags. Can I take my own plastic bags to shops and restaurants after May 4?
A: Yes (unless the establishment has its own rules).

Q: What if I’m buying clothing or housewares? Will I have to bring my own bags?
A: It depends on the store. The plastic bag ban applies to all stores regardless of what they sell. The paper bag ban applies only to supermarkets. Department stores, clothing boutiques, electronics stores, and similar establishments can still give out paper bags if they wish.

Q: I get my groceries delivered, or pick them up, curbside. What will my groceries be packed in?
A: That depends on the supermarket. (But one thing is for sure: Your groceries will not be in plastic or paper bags.)

Q: Can I pay a supermarket to give me a plastic or paper bag?
A: No.

Q: Will I still be able to buy plastic garbage bags?
A: Yes.

Q: What kinds of plastic bags are exempt?
A: Meat department, produce, and deli bags. Pet store, dry cleaning, pharmacy, and newspaper bags.

Q: Can I put old plastic bags in my recycling bin, for pickup at the curb?
A: No. (Plastic bags can get caught in sorting machines, causing a recycling plant’s entire operation to temporarily shut down while workers remove them.)

Q: Then where can I recycle old plastic bags in Haddonfield?
A: At the Acme. The supermarket will continue to have a bag bin just inside its entrance door, so customers can dispose of old bags.

Q: How will I be able to take leftovers home, after dining in a restaurant?
A: The ban applies only polystyrene foam (“Styrofoam”) food containers, plates, hot/cold beverage cups, meat/vegetable trays, cutlery, and egg cartons. The ban does not apply to hard plastic containers. Environmentally conscious restaurateurs may choose to use biodegradable cartons.


Q: Where can I read the law?

Q: Where can I get more information?
A: Here: [email protected] and 609-984-4250.

Click HERE to link to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection website for this issue.