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The Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled an online public hearing for May 1 on proposed changes aimed at fine-tuning the state law that took effect in 2022 banning the use of single-use paper and plastic bags and certain polystyrene foam food containers. 

The proposed rule was published in the New Jersey Register on Monday, opening a 60-day public comment period on the proposal.  A link for the public hearing can be found on the DEP’s website here. 

DEP said it is seeking to reduce confusion and increase compliance. The proposed rule attempts to clarify restrictions on the sale and distribution of certain single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products, as well single-use paper carryout bags, and allows certain exemptions and waiver provisions for polystyrene foam food service products. 

For example, the proposed rule clarifies certain bags with specific, limited uses are exempt from the ban if they are only used to contain uncooked meat, fish, or poultry; live animals, such as fish or insects sold in a pet store; laundry, dry cleaning, or garments; prescription drugs from a pharmacy; or newspapers. 

Single-use bags are also excluded from the ban if they are only used to package loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, grains, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers, or small hardware items. This proposed exclusion applies only to bags without handles because DEP said it is concerned that allowing bags with handles to be used for loose items “would perpetuate the use of traditional single-use plastic carryout bags.” 

DEP is also seeking to clarify what constitutes a permissible reusable bag, by mandating that they be   designed and manufactured for a minimum of 125 uses and have handles that meet certain stitching requirements (ultrasonic or with thread). Reusable bags must be made of polypropylene, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) nonwoven fabric, nylon, cloth, or hemp product. Fabric bags that are machine washable are also permitted. 

More details on the proposed rules can be found here. 

Anyone interested in testifying at the May 1 public hearing via DEP’s Microsoft Teams video conferencing software must register by emailing the department at erin.jensen@dep.nj.gov no later than 5 p.m. on April 29 with their name, telephone number, email address, and, if applicable, the name of the organization they represent.   

Written comments will also be accepted until May 31. Comments can be submitted electronically here or mailed to:  

Alice A. Previte, Esq.
ATTN: DEP Docket No. 01-24-02NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
Mail Code 401-04L; PO Box 402
401 East State Street, 7th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402