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Last year, a law was passed in New Jersey which prohibited restaurants and food service establishments from giving away single-use plastic straws, unless the customer asks for one.

Now a new law is being put into place. As of May 4, retail stores, grocery stores and other food service industries throughout New Jersey were not permitted to give away or sell any single-use plastic carryout bags or foam food service products.

However, this isn’t the end. The law also says that grocery stores bigger than 2,500 square feet also are not allowed to give away or sell single-use paper bags. Instead, stores can give away or sell reusable bags, or customers can bring their own reusable bags. In my opinion, there are both pros and cons to this new law. 

As someone who has read about the dangers of single-use plastics in our environment, I can understand the reasoning behind banning single-use plastic bags and straws from everyday use. Plastic bags take approximately 10 years to decompose in a landfill and, even then, they don’t fully decompose. They break down into microplastics and continue to pollute the earth.

Plastic bags are also dangerous to ocean wildlife, who mistake them for jellyfish and end up tangled in them, suffocating to death. Similarly, styrofoam takes about 500 years to decompose, which makes it easy to comprehend why foam food service products were included in this ban.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why paper bags are included in this ban. Paper comes from trees, making paper bags a renewable resource. Unlike plastic bags and styrofoam, it only takes paper bags about a month to decompose. Paper bags were made to be eco-friendly, and to steer people away from plastic bags. So what doesn’t make sense to me is why New Jersey is banning paper bags in grocery stores.

After the pandemic, stores may not be able to give away reusable bags and customers may not be able to buy them or have their own. Not having any bags at the registers doesn’t seem right, especially when bags that aren’t very harmful to the environment exist. 

As stated previously, I can understand the reasoning behind the plastic and styrofoam ban. They are dangerous to the environment and there are other better options. However, I cannot understand the ban on paper bags. Also, I feel that there are a lot of different rules in place that don’t make a lot of sense.

Why can a grocery store that’s less than 2,500 square feet have paper bags but one that’s bigger isn’t allowed to? Also, what counts as a grocery store? Target sells food, but isn’t necessarily a grocery store so could they have paper bags.

I think there needs to be a universal rule. If you want to ban something, do so. However, don’t only ban it in some places and not others. There are pros and cons to this law. Now, less plastics and styrofoam will end up in our oceans. However, the ban on paper bags seems unnecessary and to me, personally, doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

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