Plastic bag ban rule-breakers can face daily fines. Here’s how to report them.

The days of picking up your groceries in those thin plastic bags and struggling to get them all into your house are about to be over.

Starting May 4, single-use plastic bags will be banned in all New Jersey stores, and paper bags will be banned in grocery stores.

The ban will go into effect nearly 18 months after the law was signed by Gov. PhilMurphy. there are some exceptions to the banlike produce bags and bags used to wrap up raw meat, but for the most part, plastic bags will be a thing of the past in the Garden State.

The ban primarily impacts what businesses can give out to consumers, not what kind of bags shoppers can bring to the store. It also requires that businesses like restaurants, cafeterias and food trucks stop serving take-out food in Styrofoam-like products. Grocery stores and retailers must also stop selling polystyrene foam products like plates and cups.

There are a few ways to report businesses in violation of the new law.

  1. By calling the Department of Environmental Protection at 1-877-WARN-DEP
  2. Through the DEP’s “WARN DEP” app, which is available on the App Store and Google Play.
  3. By calling your county’s environmental health officer (find their phone number here).

The DEP told NJ Advance Media it is in the process of setting up a dedicated email account for reporting violations. Once that email is set up, it will be on the DEP’s bag ban information page.

The straw rules — which require businesses to only give out straws if you ask for one — are enforced by the Department of Health.

Businesses or persons found in violation of the law will get a written warning for the first offense, a $1,000 per-day fine for the second offense, and a $5,000 per-day fine for the third offense, the DEP says.

Are you a business owner who still has questions? The NJBAC website is posting updates about the law, and the DEP website has a more general FAQ you can read through.

The NJBAC website also has a live chat feature where business owners can ask specific questions, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm

How strictly will the ban be enforced? It’s hard to know in advance, and it’s difficult to compare New Jersey’s plastic bag regulation to those of other states. All other states with bans still allow for the use of paper bags in their grocery stores, and some states with regulations allow for bags to be sold for a small fee, usually around ten cents.

In New York, the closest state and one of the most recent to enact a ban, plastic bags are banned in all stores. Retailers can charge small fees for paper bags, which cost significantly more per bag than plastic bags.

But local news reports in the months following the bans said many bodegas and smaller stores were disregarding the bans entirely, and that regulators were not able to respond to the majority of complaints about plastic bag use.

“The smaller stores, including the bodegas, may not have an organization that’s representing them, where they’re getting all the messaging that they need to get and that’s my biggest concern. We certainly didn’t want to create a bigger expense on behalf of those stores,” JoAnn Gemenden, the New Jersey Clean Communities Council executive director, said.

And enforcement might be something worth putting on pause, at least at first, one expert said.

Stores, particularly ones owned by members of disadvantaged communities, should be provided education instead of given purposes during the early days of the bag ban, Matthew Schuler, an assistant biology professor at Montclair State University, told NJ Advance Media.

“What communities are making the changes to the loss of plastic bags and other products faster and which ones are facing challenges? They should think of how we can overcome and face those challenges together. Because that will help us with future plastic bans,” Schuler said.

Read more about the upcoming bag ban:

For more information on the ban visit Still have questions about New Jersey’s plastic bag ban? Ask them here.

Katie Kausch may be reached at Steven Rhodes may be reached at

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