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Reusable Bags Accumulate from Food Delivery, Creating Concern Over Waste Build Up

by Ted Goldberg, NJ Spotlight News

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement. Link to video:

As a result of New Jersey’s single-use plastic ban, people like Justin Canning have gone grocery shopping without plastic bags for four months. “I’ve been very good at putting the groceries away, and then immediately putting the bags right back in the car. So they’re at least in the car. I’ve gotten that step down,” said Canning.

As of May, New Jersey grocery stores that are larger than 2,500 square feet can’t use plastic or paper bags for purchases. Polystyrene containers, like Styrofoam, are also against the law. And it’s not just bags—plastic straws must be requested by customers. Paper bags are okay for takeout and delivery. Foam trays are allowed for meat and fish, and thin plastic bags are fine for produce. It is hard to keep up—so without plastic bags, some shoppers are swimming in reusable bags, while others have resorted to stealing baskets from supermarkets.

Each of these baskets costs $15, according to Circus Foodtown owner Lou Scaduto Jr. Since the ban, he is seeing more people get groceries delivered, and each of those shipments results in more reusable bags sent to peoples’ homes. State Sen. Bob Smith sponsored the single-use plastic ban, and he says something has to give or he needs to amend the law.

“We need an alternative system there. The point is not to have waste build up. If you keep on sending reusable bags every time there’s a weekly delivery of food, you’re going to get a pile of reusable bags, which you’re not going to use. You’re going to throw them away. That’s insane,” said Smith.

Smith says he expects an amendment to come out in September or October. Other than that, he says the law is working as intended.