• The Hoboken Plastic Bag Ban: Everything You Need to Know

    Written by:

    That citywide plastic ban is no longer some ambiguous thing that’s happening way in the future. It’s here.

    On January 22nd, the Hoboken ban on single-use plastic bags finally goes into effect. First announced last June, the ban seeks to encourage residents to employ more environmentally-friendly options and to cut back on the city’s waste.

    “Single-use plastic bags are incredibly wasteful and destructive to our community and the environment,” Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said. “The US wastes hundreds of billions of these bags every year. This ban is a reasonable way we as Hobokenites can do our part to cut down on litter and pollution.”

    plastic bag ban hoboken jersey city

    Instagram via

    Speaking of cutting down on litter and pollution, the individual person uses 500 single-use plastic bags per year. Yikes! Couple that with the fact that plastic takes hundreds {sometimes thousands of years} to break down in landfills, that’s a whole lot of unnecessary plastic — AKA unnecessary pollution.

    paper bag

    Hoboken’s City Council adopted the plastic ban ordinance right around the time Jersey City did, but JC’s ban doesn’t go into effect until October 2019. Hoboken is hardly the first to enact such a ban. Back in 2014, California passed its own plastic bag legislation, at the time the first of its kind in the US. Chicago quickly followed suit the same year and according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 agenda, New York is next to tackle a plastic bag ban.

    See More: The Dangers of Plastic Containers + Local Restaurants That Offer Alternatives

    Even Ireland has gone plasticless. Actually, it was one of the first countries to do so back in 2002. When the country passed a plastic bag tax — 33 US cents per bag at the time — plastic bag usage dropped 94% in a matter of weeks. Clearly, we’re learning something from the Irish!

    Not sure how you’re going to survive the plastic bag ban? It won’t be as hard as you think, especially if you read up on what kinds of bags are still free, what constitutes as a compliant bag, and how you can score reusable bags for free from the city. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Hoboken’s plastic bag ban!

    Read More: Recycling in Hoboken + Tips on Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

    What the Ban Means

    Now that the ban goes into effect on January 22nd, here’s what you need to know about what it entails. It bans single-use plastic carry-out bags at all retail and food establishments. Businesses will be required to provide paper bags to shoppers for a fee of anywhere from 10-25 cents {it depends on the establishment}. That fee is collected by the individual business at which you shop from, which means they use that money to help cover costs of purchasing paper bags.

    The fee is not a tax. It is in place in order to cover the fee for retailers of course, but also to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags. BYOB{ags} means you don’t have to pay a fee. And nobody wants to pay a fee if they can avoid it.

    Who Doesn’t Have to Pay the Fee?

    Any customer participating in or benefiting from any US, NJ, or Hudson County welfare program does not have to pay the fee. This includes {but is also not limited to} SNAP, SSI, and/or WIC.

    What Constitutes a Compliant Bag?

    A reusable bag or paper bags made of at least 40% post-consumer recycled material that can be composted is considered a compliant bag. Bags made of cloth, other washable fabrics, or plastic that is 2.25 ml thick that is “specifically made for multiple reuse of at least 125 reuses, can carry at least 22 pounds, is machine-washable or is made from material that can be cleaned or disinfected” is considered a compliant bag.

    Note: wine and liquor bags are not exempt from the ban and therefore are not compliant. Paper wine or liquor bags will be available for a fee.

    For tips on how to keep your reusable, complaint bags clean, check out FoodSafety.Gov.

    Which Plastic Bags Are Still Free?

    Some plastic bags are still available for free from retailers and food establishments. Check the list below to see what’s still free:

    • Produce bags for fruits and vegetables
    • Product bags {AKA packaging}
    • Bags that contain frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers, plants or baked goods
    • Pharmacy prescription bags
    • Newspaper bags
    • Laundry or dry-cleaning bags
    • Packages of multiple bags {Ziplocs, pet waste bags, etc.}

    Starting January 22nd, businesses must provide paper bags for a fee of 10-25 cents. The fee is collected and kept by the business to help cover the cost of purchasing the compliant bags. Residents are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags whenever possible.

    What If I Bring My Own Plastic Bags?

    If you bring your own reusable bags, then you do not have to pay the fee. If you bring your own single-use plastic bags from home, the retailer or grocery store should not give you an issue.

    The ordinance specifically affects businesses, banning businesses from providing single-use plastic bags. Consumers are still allowed to use them and bring them to the store if they please.

    plastic bag grass

    While many of us tend to store plastic bags in our pantry exactly for moments like this, it’s important to remember that single-use plastic bags do not break down. Because of Hoboken’s close proximity to the Hudson River — which in turn, flows into the New York Harbor and Atlantic Ocean — plastic poses a specific, tangible, harmful threat. Plastic bags are very dangerous for sea life, as marine animals like seals, turtles, and dolphins very often mistake plastic for food. When marine animals attempt to ingest plastic bags, they can either suffer asphyxiation, intestinal blockage, or die from toxicity.

    Aside from posing a threat to marine life, floating trash is more often times than not non-biodegradable. Especially plastic made from nasty fibers like polyethylene. That means once this trash enters our oceans, it doesn’t break down. It doesn’t go anywhere; it simply stays in our oceans. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually.

    The best way to cut back on this harmful pollution is to reduce the amount of plastic we’re using. Please take all this into consideration before deciding to use single-use plastic bags as an alternative to reusable bags.

    What If I Don’t Bring My Own Bags?

    If you go to a retailer or grocery store without your own bags, you will have to either carry your items out in your arms or purchase a paper bag from the store for a fee.

    Get ready to see a lot of people walking down Washington Street with single items in their arms… #PlasticBagBanLife.

    What Do I Do With the Plastic Bags I Already Have?

    If you already have plastic bags, you might be wondering what you can do with them. As stated above, you can still bring your plastic bags with you to a retailer or grocery store in order to avoid the paper bag fee. The alternative is to recycle them. Drop-off locations for recycling single-use plastic bags include ACME, City Hall, and Shop Rite.

    How Can I Get Reusable Bags for Free?

    In an effort to encourage residents to opt for reusable bags, the City of Hoboken is offering free reusable bags at several upcoming events. Below is a list of where you can obtain free reusable bags from Hoboken’s Green team.

    free reusable bags hoboken

    {Photo credit: Twitter}

    • Mutzfest — January 27th from 2:00PM-6:00PM at Hoboken Elks Lodge
    • Hoboken State of the City Address — January 29th at 6:30PM at Stevens Institute of Technology
    • Stevens Institute of Technology — January 30th at 3:00PM at Pierce Dining Hall

    If you have any questions about Hoboken’s plastic bag ordinance, you can consult their overview here. If you are a business looking to request an exemption from the ban, you can apply here.

    Do you have any tips on how to survive the plastic bag ban? Let us know in the comments!

    Have you joined our Facebook group yet? Request here to gain access to even more local tips, and connect with fellow Hudson County residents.


    Written by:

    Steph Osmanski is a freelance blogger and brand consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared on Life & Style, In Touch, Seventeen, Parents, and more. She is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton.