This month in unintended consequences:
Why Do Some People in New Jersey Suddenly Have Bags and Bags of Bags?
By Clare Toeniskoetter
Sept 1, 2022
Nicole Kramaritsch of Roxbury, N.J., has 46 bags just sitting in her garage. Brian Otto has 101 of them, so many that he’s considering sewing them into blackout curtains for his baby’s bedroom. (So far, that idea has gone nowhere.) Lili Mannuzza in Whippany has 74.
I don’t know what to do with all these bags,she said.
The mountains of bags are an unintended consequence of New Jersey’s strict new bag ban in supermarkets. It went into effect in May and prohibits not only plastic bags but paper bags as well. The well-intentioned law seeks to cut down on waste and single-use plastics, but for many people who rely on grocery delivery and curbside pickup services their orders now come in heavy-duty reusable shopping bags — lots and lots of them, week after week.
While nearly a dozen states nationwide have implemented restrictions on single-use plastic bags, New Jersey is the only one to ban paper bags because of their environmental impact. The law also bans polystyrene foam food containers and cups, and restricts restaurants from handing out plastic straws unless they’re requested.
Emily Gonyou, 22, a gig worker in Roselle Park who provides shopping services for people through Instacart, said she was surprised when she learned the delivery company had no special plans for accommodating the ban.They pretty much said,she said.OK, do exactly what you’re doing, but with reusable bags,
Compared to single-use plastics, the more durable reusable bags are better for the environment only if they are actually reused. [A] typical reusable bag, manufactured from polypropylene, must be used at least 10 times to account for the additional energy and material required to make it.
The goal of bag bans is to reduce reliance on single-use plastics like the thin bags that became ubiquitous decades ago . Paper bags are sometimes seen as an eco-friendly alternative because they are more recyclable and made from trees, a renewable resource, yet they take significantly more energy to produce.
The ban in New Jersey, which applies to grocery stores 2,500 square feet or bigger, is meant to encourage in-store shoppers to skip single-use plastic and paper entirely, and instead bring their own reusable bags.
But that, of course, doesn’t work for most online orders.
Dr. Miller said the bag situation in New Jersey was emblematic of a lot of environmental policies.If we don’t pay attention to the unintended impacts of policies such as the plastic waste ban, we run into the potential of playing environmental Whac-a-Mole,she said.We solve one environmental problem only to create or exacerbate another problem.
— Clare Toeniskoetter, Why Do Some People in New Jersey Suddenly Have Bags and Bags of Bags?
New York Times, 1 September 2022.