A bill making its way through the New Jersey Legislature seeks to correct an unintended consequence of the single-use bag ban.

Since the ban on single-use plastic bags began in May 2022, those who have their groceries delivered receive them in reusable bags for each delivery instead of single-use plastic bags. However, for this subset of consumers, those bags from prior deliveries effectively serve as single-use bags.

This bill (S3114/A4741) would require grocery stores and third-party grocery delivery services that provide reusable bags for home delivery to provide a reusable bag takeback service, and establish a program for (1) return, sanitation and reuse of reusable bags, (2) recycling of reusable bags, or (3) donation of reusable bags to food pantries. In addition, for the next three years, grocery stores will also be permitted to deliver groceries in recycled paper bags or cardboard boxes.

While shoppers still grumble when they forget to bring a bag to the store, the bag ban – one of most comprehensive bans in the country – was lauded by environmental groups when it became law and has reportedly already avoided the use and disposal of more than a billion bags. Grocery stores like it too. The New Jersey Food Council, an alliance of food retailers and their suppliers, recently enthusiastically described the bag ban as “one of the most successful environmental programs ever implemented in New Jersey.”

The Senate version of the amendments was calendared for a second reading on November 21. Barring unforeseen issues, the bill could become law in the next few months.