Blue state’s bag ban meant to protect environment backfires at staggering rate: study

New Jersey banned retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to customers in 2022

Plastic consumption in New Jersey spiked by nearly three times following the state’s implementation of a strict ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, a study found. 

"Following New Jersey’s ban of single-use bags, the shift from plastic film to alternative bags resulted in a nearly 3x increase in plastic consumption for bags," Freedonia Custom Research (FCR), a business research division for, reported in a study published this month. 

New Jersey implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2022, the strictest ban on bags in the nation at the time, billing it as an effort to cut back on the plastic one-use bags piling up in landfills. 

"Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers and oceans," Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said after signing legislation in 2020 that authorized the bag ban. "With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations."  


Phil Murphy delivering address to NJ state legislators

Gov. Phil Murphy delivers the State of the State Address at the New Jersey State House in Trenton on Jan. 10, 2023. (Aristide Economopoulos/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The ban took effect in May 2022, forbidding larger retail, grocery and food service stores from providing single-use plastic bags to customers. Instead, shoppers may purchase reusable bags made of woven and non-woven polypropylene plastic, or can bring their previously-purchased reusable bags to the store. 

It didn't take long, however, until shoppers started airing their grievances to local media that the reusable bags were stacking up in their homes due to repeatedly purchasing reusable bags at the grocery store, or due to home grocery delivery services using new reusable bags each drop-off. 


"I keep them in the basement," one New Jersey mom told NJ Advance Media in 2022. "I have another bag by the door in case I go out to the farmer’s market. Most of them are brand new, even have the tag on them. I use them one time but don’t throw them out."

Man sitting next to plastic shopping bags

A man sits on a bench beside plastic shopping bags. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images )

Some Garden State lawmakers soon acknowledged the issues of shoppers not reusing the reusable bags and simply throwing them out, floating proposed amendments that have since apparently stalled, such as requiring home delivery services use cardboard boxes or paper bags instead of the heavy reusable plastic bags.


Instead of having the intended beneficial impact on the environment, the reusable bag ban has actually backfired, data reported in the study show. Plastic consumption in the state has nearly tripled, with New Jerseyans previously consuming 53 million pounds of plastic before the ban, compared to 151 million pounds following the ban, FCR researchers reported. 

Shopper carrying reusable plastic bags

A shopper leaves a story with their goods in reusable plastic bags. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images )

Reusable bags made of non-woven polypropylene are much thicker than the typical single-use plastic bags typically found at grocery and convenience stores, using roughly 15 times the amount of plastic, the study reported. Though the bags are built for repeated shopping trips, most New Jerseyans only reuse the bags two to three times before they're discarded. 


"[Six times] more woven and non-woven polypropylene plastic was consumed to produce the reusable bags sold to consumers as an alternative. Most of these alternative bags are made with non-woven polypropylene, which is not widely recycled in the United States and does not typically contain any post-consumer recycled materials. This shift in material also resulted in a notable environmental impact, with the increased consumption of polypropylene bags contributing to a 500% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to non-woven polypropylene bag production in 2015," the study reported. 

Man holds plastic bags while looking at 'say no to plastic bags' sign to his left

A man carries goods in plastic bags outside a department store. (Romeo Gacad/AFP via Getty Images)

In order to have a positive impact on the environment and the  state’s plastic consumption, researchers found shoppers would have to reuse the bags a minimum of 16 times. 

Reusable bags have also resulted in windfall profits for retailers since the ban took effect, with the researchers finding the average retailer could make $200,000 annually at a single location.

Fox News Digital reached out to Gov. Murphy’s office for comment on the study, but did not receive a response by time of publication.

New Jersey is just one of a handful of states that have implemented plastic bag bans in an effort to stymie plastic consumption and benefit the environment. States such as Vermont, Oregon, California and others have their own versions of bans on single-use plastic bags.

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