Ban on Single-Use Carryout Bags, Ban on Polystyrene Foam Food Service Products, and Plastic Straws By-Request-Only (P.L. 2020, c. 117)

A summary and overview of the law P.L. 2020, c. 117 (pdf)

How Does this Law Impact My Business?

Ban on Single-Use Carryout Bags:

  • Beginning May 4, 2022, the law prohibits all Stores (including retail), Food Service Businesses, and Grocery Stores from selling to, or providing their customers with, single-use plastic carryout bags. In addition, Grocery Stores larger than 2,500 square feet may not provide or sell single-use paper carryout bags, and instead may provide or sell only reusable carryout bags.
  • Definitions:

    • "Store" is any grocery store, convenience store, liquor store, pharmacy, drug store, or other retail establishment.
    • "Food Service Business" sells or provides food for consumption on or off the premises, including, but not limited to, establishments such as a restaurant, café, delicatessen, coffee shop, convenience store, grocery store, vending truck or cart, food truck, movie theater, or business or institutional cafeteria, including those operated by a government entity.
    • "Grocery Store" is a self-service retail establishment that occupies at least 2,500 square feet, and that sells household foodstuffs for off-site consumption, including but not limited to fresh produce, meat, poultry, fish, deli products, dairy products, canned foods, dry foods, beverages, baked foods, or prepared foods.

Reusable Carryout Bags:

  • A "reusable carryout bag" must be:

    1. Made of polypropylene fabric, PET nonwoven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric; and
    2. Have stitched handles;
    3. Be designed and manufactured for multiple reuses.

Ban on Polystyrene Foam Food Service Products:

  • Beginning May 4, 2022, the law prohibits all persons and food service businesses from selling/offering for sale any polystyrene foam food service product and prohibits all food service businesses from selling/providing any food served in a polystyrene foam food service product.
  • The following products are exempt until May 4, 2024 unless otherwise extended by the DEP:

    • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks.
    • Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids.
    • Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance.
    • Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product.
    • Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by the DEP.
  • A "polystyrene foam food service product" is defined as a product made, in whole or in part, of polystyrene foam that is used for selling or providing a food or beverage, and includes but is not limited to a food container, plate, hot or cold beverage cup, meat or vegetable tray, cutlery, or egg carton.
  • Further exemptions and requests for waivers for polystyrene foam food service products may be submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on forms to be prescribed.
  • Contact for the NJDEP Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste is singleuseplastics@dep.nj.gov or 609-984-4250

Requirements for Single-use Plastic Straws:

  • Beginning on November 4, 2021, food service businesses shall only provide a single-use plastic straw to a customer upon request by the customer. Food service businesses are required to keep an adequate supply of single-use plastic straws. Stores may continue to sell packages of single-use plastic straws and provide/sell a beverage pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a single-use plastic straw, i.e., juice boxes

Penalties for Non-compliance and Enforcement:

  • A person or entity that violates the law will be warned for a first offense, may be fined up to $1,000 per day for the second offense, and may be fined up to $5,000 per day for the third and subsequent violations. Violations of a continuing nature constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense for each day that is deemed a violation.
  • The DEP, municipalities and any entity certified pursuant to the "County Environmental Health Act" are authorized to enforce the law.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Questions About Stores and Types of Reusable Bags

The ban on single use plastic and paper carryout bags becomes effective on May 4, 2022.

The plastic and paper single-use carryout bag ban has many requirements and some exceptions. In general, the law prohibits all Stores, Food Service Businesses, and Grocery Stores from selling or providing their customers with single use plastic carryout bags. In addition, Grocery Stores that occupy at least 2,500 square feet may not provide single-use paper carryout bags.

The single-use plastic bag ban applies to a "Store," "Food Service Business," & "Grocery Store." The single-use paper bag ban applies to a "Grocery Store." As defined by the law:

  • A "Store" is any grocery store, convenience store, liquor store, pharmacy, drug store or other retail establishment.
  • A "Food Service Business" sells or provides food for consumption on or off the premises, including establishments such as a restaurant, café, delicatessen, coffee shop, convenience store, grocery store, vending truck or cart, food truck, movie theater, or business or institutional cafeteria, including those operated by a government entity.
  • A "Grocery Store" is a self-service retail establishment that occupies at least 2,500 square feet and sells household foodstuffs for off-site consumption.

    • It does not include an establishment that handles only pre-packaged food that does not require time or temperature controls for food safety.

If you are uncertain whether a particular business meets the statutory definition of "Store," "Food Service Business," or "Grocery Store" after reviewing P.L. 2020, Chapter 117, we recommend that you consult the DEP's List of Establishments and Applicable Provisions.

  • A "single-use plastic carryout bag" is a carryout bag made of plastic that is not a reusable carry out bag as defined by the law. These are prohibited from being provided in all retail establishments. There are some exceptions as noted in (1.5) below.
  • A "single-use paper carryout bag" is a carryout bag made of paper that is not a reusable carryout bag as defined by the law. These are only prohibited from being provided in Grocery Stores larger than 2,500 square feet.

There is no minimum thickness for a bag to be considered reusable. No single-use plastic carryout bags, regardless of the thickness of the plastic, are allowed to be provided or sold.

A reusable carryout bag is a bag that:

  1. is made of polypropylene fabric, PET nonwoven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric; and
  2. has stitched handles; and
  3. is designed and manufactured for multiple reuses.

Yes, all reusable carryout bags must be capable of withstanding multiple washes while maintaining usefulness and integrity.

Yes, every reusable carryout bag must have handles to be considered reusable.

Yes, stitched handles can be either conventionally stitched or ultrasonically stitched.

No, bags with handles attached by adhesives do not qualify as reusable carryout bags.

Yes, bags whereby the handles are part of the bag but are stitched together qualify as reusable carryout bags.

A minimum of 125 uses and capable of withstanding multiple washes while maintaining usefulness and integrity.

Yes. There is a set list of uses for plastic bags that are exempted from this law and are therefore allowed:

  • a bag used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish, or poultry.
  • a bag used solely to package loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, grains, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers, bulk food, or small hardware items.
  • a bag used solely to contain live animals, such as fish or insects sold in a pet store.
  • a bag used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order, including soup or hot food.
  • a laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bag.
  • a bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.
  • a bag for newspapers.
  • any similar bag, as determined by the Department pursuant to rule, regulation, or guidance.

Yes, the DEP has the ability (by rule, regulation, or guidance) to determine additional exceptions to the definition of a reusable carryout bag. Please contact the DEP for further information.

There is no minimum recycled requirement for reusable carryout bags (or any included product) in this law. However, the use of recycled content in all allowable bags is encouraged.

No, there is no requirement for reusable carryout bags to be recyclable at this time, however as technology and markets progress for different products and materials, it is encouraged.

A pharmacy qualifies as a Store and may not provide or sell single-use plastic carryout bags to customers, unless the plastic carryout bag is used to carry prescription drugs (see Section 1.12 above). Pharmacies are permitted to sell or provide single use paper carryout bags.

This law does not require that customers purchase reusable carryout bags.

Yes, the definition for reusable carryout bag only applies to the bags that stores and businesses are allowed to provide or sell to customers.

Yes, the law allows for the sale of packages of paper bags and lawn bags from all Stores and Grocery Stores.

No, only single-use carryout bags are included in the portion of the law. Trash bags continue to be allowable to purchase in stores.

2. Questions about Polystyrene Foam Food Service Products

The ban on polystyrene foam food service products becomes effective on May 4, 2022.

The polystyrene foam food service products ban states that no person or food service business shall provide or offer for sale any polystyrene foam food service product or any food in a polystyrene foam food service product.

  • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene soda spoons when required/used for thick drinks.
  • Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids.
  • Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance.
  • Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product.

These exemptions will be in effect for two years from the ban's effective date, or until May 4, 2024. The law also allows the DEP to extend any of the polystyrene foam food service product exemptions referenced above for additional periods not to exceed one year. These extensions will only be considered upon receipt of written documentation that there is no cost-effective and readily available alternative for the item.

Any extended exemptions will automatically expire after one year, but the DEP may extend any such exemptions beyond one year upon receipt of further documentation as outlined in the paragraph above.

A waiver may be requested for a polystyrene foam food service product or food in a polystyrene foam food service product for a period not to exceed one year upon a determination that one of the following situations are met:

  • there is no feasible and commercially available alternative for a specific polystyrene foam food service product; or
  • the person or business has less than $500,000 in gross annual income and there is no reasonably affordable, commercially-available alternative to the polystyrene foam food service product.

These waivers must be approved in writing by the DEP. Waivers may be extended by the DEP for periods not to exceed one year upon written documentation submitted on the forms prescribed by the DEP.

Waivers are different than exemptions. Exemptions are specific to the list in Section 2.3 above. Waivers can be requested for any polystyrene foam food service product or food in a polystyrene foam food service product if the criteria outlined in this section apply.

3. Questions about Plastic Straws By-Request-Only

The "by request only" provision in the law for single use plastic straws becomes effective November 4, 2021.

Food service businesses may provide a single-use plastic straw to a customer only upon the request of the customer.

Nothing prohibits a store from selling packages of single-use plastic straws to customers or providing or selling a beverage pre-packaged by a manufacturer with a single-use plastic straw.

Yes, the "by request only" provision of the law for single-use plastic straws applies to all instances where a customer has the option of using or not using a single-use plastic straw.

Note: All food service business must still maintain an adequate supply of single-use plastic straws to provide at the request of customers.

4. Questions about Enforcement

The Department of Environmental Protection, municipalities, and any entity certified by the "County Environmental Health Act" have the authority to enforce the single-use plastic and paper carryout bag and polystyrene foam food service product provisions of the law.

The Department of Health enforces the plastic straw provision of the law.

A person or entity that violates the law shall be subject to a warning for the first offense, may be fined up to $1,000 per day for the second offense, and up to $5,000 per day for the third and subsequent offense. Violations of a continuing nature constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense for each day that is deemed a violation.

The new law supersedes and pre-empts all municipal and county rules, regulations, codes, or ordinances concerning the regulation or prohibition of single-use plastic or paper carryout bags, polystyrene foam food service products and single-use plastic straws. Every store or entity in New Jersey that is subject to the statewide law must comply with its requirements, regardless of where the store is located.

5. Resources and Contact Information

Please visit the New Jersey Business Action Center's (NJBAC) Vendor List at https://business.nj.gov/Vendors

The NJBAC assists businesses and will post updates to the law on the https://business.nj.gov website as they become available. There is a Live Chat "Ask Our NJ Business Experts" feature on this website that fields business questions. The Live Chat is available Monday-Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm.

The law provides funding to the New Jersey Clean Communities Council to develop a statewide education and outreach program, and to implement the limited distribution of free reusable carryout bags in New Jersey. For more information on these programs, visit: https://www.njclean.org.

More information about this law?

General information about the law can be found at the following websites:

E-mail: singleuseplastics@dep.nj.gov Phone: (609) 984-4250

Full Legislation

A copy of the law can be found at https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/AL20/117_.HTM