Hoboken’s Ban on Reusable Plastic Bags and Styrofoam Now in Effect

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In January 2019, the Hoboken ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect, encouraging residents to use more environmentally friendly options and to cut back on the city’s waste. While this was deemed an overall success, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla posted on Facebook this past January, “the thicker ‘reusable’ plastic bags used at the larger retailers aren’t being reused like the intent of the original law we passed last year.” 

To account for that discrepancy in intent and action, Hoboken has now amended its original ordinance to include a ban on single-use plastic bags, reusable plastic bags, and polystyrene products {which is what Styrofoam products are made of}. This ban went into full effect on March 8th, 2020. Here’s everything you need to know about the new city-wide ban. 

The Amendments

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Having gone into effect on March 8th, 2020, reusable plastic bags are longer be permitted. This is an amendment to the original ordinance from 2019, which permitted the use of heavy reusable plastic bags of at least 2.25 mils thick, such as the ShopRite alternatives. Similarly, a second amendment no longer permits the use of single-service articles made of expanded polystyrene {EPS}. EPS is typically used for cups, containers, plates, packing peanuts, and other materials and cannot be recycled. Residents are most familiar with the popular brand Styrofoam.

The Plastic Ban

Given the amendments, the ban has now expanded to include “single-use plastic carry-out bags” and “reusable plastic bags,” according to the City of Hoboken website.

According to the website, plastic bags that are still allowed for free are:

  • Produce bags {fruits and vegetables}
  • Product bags {packaging}
  • Bags used to contain frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers, baked goods, or plants
  • Pharmacy prescription bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Laundry or dry-cleaning bags
  • Packages of multiple bags {food storage bags, pet waste bags, garbage bags}

Otherwise, retail and food establishments will continue to encourage us to {remember to} bring our reusable bags. And for when we forget, they will offer only paper bag alternatives for a fee of 10-25 cents per bag. 

Find the full ban here.

The Polystyrene Ban

As for polystyrene, the ban states “that single service articles made of expanded polystyrene {EPS} will be banned,” according to the City’s website. This means that “no retail or food establishment shall possess, sell, or offer for use single-service articles that consist of EPS including cups, containers, lids, closures, trays, plates, utensils, napkins, wrapping, etc.” and that no establishment should sell “polystyrene loose fill packaging {aka ‘packing peanuts’}.” Please note, however, that straws are not included in this ban.

EPS articles that are still allowed include:

  • EPS containers used for pre-packaged food or products that have been filled or sealed outside of Hoboken prior to receipt by the establishment.
  • EPS containers used to store raw meat, pork, fish, seafood or poultry.

Find the full ban here.

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Why Plastic?

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On average, a person uses 500 single-use plastic bags per year. That is more than one bag per day. Couple that with the fact that plastic does not break down – it takes hundreds of years in landfills – and you have a lot of potential litter and unnecessary pollution.

Because of Hoboken’s close proximity to the Hudson River, plastic poses a specific, tangible, harmful threat to sea life. Marine animals like dolphins and turtles often mistake plastic for food. When these animals attempt to ingest plastic bags, they can either suffer asphyxiation, intestinal blockage or die from toxicity. Additionally, floating trash is more often times than not non-biodegradable. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually – and it doesn’t go anywhere.

The Bigger Picture

Hoboken is hardly the first to enact such a ban. Back in 2014, California passed the first plastic bag legislation in the U.S. Jersey City’s ban went into effect rather recently, in October 2019, while New York City’s single-use plastic bag ban will go into effect this March as well. Internationally, even Ireland has gone plastic-less, and their results are astonishing. When the country passed a plastic bag tax – 33 U.S. cents per bag at the time – plastic bag usage dropped 94% in a matter of weeks.

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Ultimately, the plastic bag ban is another step in Hoboken’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050 and hopefully, the Mile Square can reach that goal.

Will Jersey City be close behind? Let us know in the comments!

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Born and raised in Madison, this authentic Jersey tomato has ripened in Hudson County for the last seven years. As a graduate of Northeastern University’s D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Chloe’s been nerding out over Excel spreadsheets {and stalking you on the internet} since she took her first internship at Efficient Frontier in NYC. Don’t let her college choice fool you, she is a diehard Met’s fan and has the weathered scorebook to prove it. When she’s not dodging armpits and elbows on the PATH, she can usually be found watching Jurassic Park {the original, obviously} for the billionth time, talking to every Jersey City dog she passes, or finishing the last slice of pizza.