Is New Jersey’s Plastic Bag Ban Actually Working? Depends Who You Ask

New Jersey’s ban on plastic bags is still a matter of heated political debate nearly two years after having gone into effect. One of the primary questions surrounding the ban is: Did it actually work? Are New Jerseyans actually using fewer plastic bags?

The answer, like with most politically-charged questions, depends upon whom you ask for one.

According to research recently released by Environment America, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, and Frontier Group, New Jersey residents have drastically reduced their plastic bag consumption. The figures are staggering, with an average monthly decrease of nearly 459 million plastic bags for the remainder of 2022, equating to an annual reduction of approximately 5.51 billion bags, or 594 plastic bags saved per New Jersey resident each year.

That would make New Jersey’s plastic bag ban one of the most successful in the country, if your metric for success is how many fewer bags are being used each year.

However, a separate study by the Freedonia Group suggests the very opposite. The study found that the shift towards reusable bags may inadvertently tripled plastic use and increased greenhouse gas emissions. It also found that the average reusable bag is discarded after only two to three uses.

This study was commissioned by the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, a group representing plastic bag manufacturers. As such, critics suggest that the findings, stemming from an industry with vested interests in the continuation of plastic bag use, should be taken with a grain of salt.

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