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Should NJ Bag the Ban on Bags?

Photo by Griffin Wooldridge on Unsplash

New Jersey shoppers frantically searched for reusable bags before the ban kicked in full gear. Ironically, these newly adopted reusable bags require much more plastic to produce than the infamous single-use bags. According to data reported by FCR researchers and featured on Fox29, plastic consumption in the state nearly tripled, with New Jersey residents consuming 53 million pounds of plastic before the ban, compared to 151 million pounds afterward. Plastic pollution poses a growing problem, harming wildlife and polluting the environment, but this ban was not the right approach to combat it. Despite efforts to reduce plastic consumption, New Jersey replaced standard plastic bags with bags that required much more plastic to produce, only for people to discard them anyway.

Another major factor contributing to the catastrophic failure of New Jersey’s single-use bag ban was how shoppers handled their reusable bags. The ban assumed that reusable bags wouldn’t be discarded after a single use, yet a Freedonia Group study reported in Forbes revealed that many people in New Jersey now use reusable bags as single-use bags. Shoppers purchase bags from retail stores to carry their purchases out and then discard them, mirroring their behavior with single-use bags. For reusable bags to effectively reduce New Jersey’s plastic consumption, they would need to be used anywhere between 11-59 times. However, they are generally only used an average of two to three times in reality. As a result, New Jersey is now littered with reusable bags, as shoppers use them in the same manner as the outlawed bags.

Instead of saving the Garden State’s environment from plastics, the single-use bag ban exacerbated the issue. The only party benefiting from the ban is retailers themselves, who, according to Fox29, could make $200,000 annually just from selling reusable bags. This phenomenon of selling bags to customers arose from the plastic bag ban and has proven to be very lucrative for retail stores in New Jersey. Shoppers who do not bring their own bags to the store have the option to either carry all of their items to their car without a bag or to purchase a reusable bag from the store. Buying a bag for 10 cents from the store is far more convenient than struggling to carry loose groceries back to the car, leading to a significant financial benefit for retailers over time.

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