More than a year after New Jersey enacted one of the nation’s strictest bans on single-use plastic bags and straws, the majority of residents are still in favor of the new rules, according to a new poll by Monmouth University.
However, the survey released Sept. 6 found that overall support has somewhat diminished from 61% in April 2022 – a month before the mandate took effect – to 56% in August 2023.
In commenting on the results, Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said, “There has been a small dip in support since the state’s plastic bag ban went into effect, but most New Jerseyans are still on board with it.”
Conducted by phone between Aug. 10 to 14, the survey of 814 respondents has a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points.
Along with prohibiting grocery stores and retailers from providing plastic bags at checkout, the state law limits businesses of 2,500 square feet or larger from offering single-use paper bags to customers. Similarly, polystyrene foam food takeout containers and other polystyrene food service products also may no longer be provided to customers, and single-use plastic straws may be provided only upon request.
Currently, less than half (44%) of the public supports banning large supermarkets from giving out paper bags – as the law now requires – a slight decrease from 47% last year, the new poll found.
A similar majority (56%) is behind banning Styrofoam containers, down from 64% in 2022, while support for banning plastic straws stands at 50%, similar to 52% last year.
According to the poll, 45% New Jerseyans reported that most stores appear to be complying with the changes. When asked about the last time they ordered takeout from a deli or restaurant, 11% of respondents said they received their food in a plastic bag, 53% were given a paper bag and 29% did not get any bag.
Additionally, 89% of residents now bring their own bags when they go grocery shopping, up from 38% a month before the ban went into effect.
Although Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration said the ban has resulted in a significant reduction in litter, the law has left many residents with a surplus of reusable totes that were purchased at stores or given with grocery orders or food deliveries.
Over the past year, 16% of poll respondents have amassed more than 50 bags, 12% now have between 25-50 bags and 26% reported they own 11-25 bags.
Of the residents who have gotten more than five bags, 62% say they prefer to hang onto their surplus, while 20% recycle some of them and 7% toss at least some of the totes into the trash.
The latter numbers go up among those who have amassed over 25 bags for both recycling (35%) and disposal (15%) of the extras, the poll said.
Murray remarked that while fewer single-use bags are making their way into the waste stream, the state now faces “a growing stockpile of reusable bags that New Jerseyans don’t know what to do with.”
Although a bill was introduced last fall that aims to solve the problem by giving grocery delivery services and their customers more packaging options for delivery, pickup and curbside orders, the measure has yet to advance.
As part of an partnership between the New Jersey Food Council and the New Jersey Clean Communities Council, efforts are underway to redistribute reusable bags to residents in need. According to the NJCCC, the plan involves numerous local and county solid waste agencies, nonprofits, food banks, civic groups, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, business entities and other interests that will offer drop-off and collection sites for reusable bags to be sanitized and recirculated.