TRENTON, N.J. – Food banks and community pantries could continue using single-use plastic and paper bags for an additional six months under a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and passed by the Assembly and Senate on Thursday.
New Jersey’s strictest-in-the-nation single-use bag ban goes into effect on May 4. Stores and food service businesses will be prohibited from selling or providing single-use plastic or paper carryout bags to customers. Dunn’s bill (A2065) gives food banks until November to come into compliance with the law.
“People who cannot afford food also can’t afford to pay for a bag to carry the donations they rely on to feed their families. As costs rise due to inflation, people are making sacrifices, but feeding your family shouldn’t be one of those,” Dunn (R-Morris) said.
Under the bill, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is required to proportionally distribute 500,000 reusable bags to food banks and pantries like soup kitchens throughout the state.
“This bill prevents the plastic and paper bag ban from having unintended, but negative impacts on those who are struggling. Examining the real-world consequences of our laws is imperative to finding a solution that supports these nonprofits and the communities they serve,” Dunn added.
Joe Nametko, the mayor of Netcong, says the town’s community food bank provides meals and supplies to 150 to 175 people on average each week since the second week of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“During weeks leading up to holidays, the number of meals we provide in the way of pre-bagged food items, goes much higher,” Nametko said. “Currently, residents who can afford to purchase their own food are kind enough to bring their used plastic bags to our food bank where they are inspected and eventually re-used. As a member of the Morris County Solid Waste Advisory, I do my best to ensure packaging that finds its way to our food bank is recycled, reused or repurposed. This measure gives us the gift of time to adopt new ways to ensure our operations are not only meeting the law, but our community needs.”