I have lived with a plastic bag ban for 3 years. Here are my tips on how to cope.

On May 4, the rest of New Jersey will get to do what my Hudson County neighbors and I have been doing since 2019 – to become cold turkeys on our disposable use of plastic shopping bags.

Both Jersey City and Hoboken introduced municipal bans on plastic bags in 2019, and Hoboken strengthened its policy in 2020. Since I live in one of these cities and shop in both, I have lived with a bag ban for three years now.

With a large plastic warehouse bag at home, filled with other plastic bags, I welcomed it. Even recycling the plastic shopping bags for waste disposal still left me with a huge (understand it?) Surplus. There are new routines to get into, but you can take advantage of my bag ban “beta test”.

Buy lots of recyclable bags

I’m single and I have a dozen recyclable plastic and fabric shopping bags and an insulated bag in my collection. It gives me enough bags to rotate them between the car and the home without getting caught in a bag shortage. This should give you an idea of ​​what you need or want.

Try different types of recyclable bags

Different bags have a number of different carrying capacities. The most common, large, heavy plastic shopping bags are trucks that are capable of swallowing large and heavy items and carrying a lot. Cloth bags seem to work best as a backup.

My two commendable bags are older Whole Foods fabric bags that are a pain to pack, but the shape prevents small cans (such as the many cans of cat food I buy) from getting loose in the car. You can also buy small fold-up bags and mesh bags that fit in your pocket, work bag or wallet for the sudden unexpected store stop on the way home.

This pocket-sized shopping bag may be there for the unplanned stop at a store after the New Jersey bag ban takes effect in May 2022.

Not all bags are the same. I have had hybrid bags made of fabric and plastic fibers that tore or went into solution and I avoid buying them.

Supermarkets offer different types of bags at reasonable prices and this is where I bought mine. I would recommend testing different types of bags early before May 4th.

ABC (Always Be Carrying)

This new, sometimes annoying habit you will have to adopt is to return the bags to your vehicle after bringing a lot of groceries home. It’s a delicate balance between shopping terror. I try to have enough bags in the car for two shopping trips plus a few backup bags.

Robust, heavy shopping bags for plastic department stores are also good choices to have in the car as a backup for your backup bags.

I try to put the recycled items from the last grocery trip in one bag and leave them at the front door as a reminder to put them in the car. Since there is a supermarket within walking distance, I try to balance my stock between the bags I leave at home for walking / cycling trips and the ones I have in my car.

ABC (always wear)

Always return your empty recyclable shopping bags to the car is one of the tips to clear the New Jersey bag ban starting May 4th.

Always bring more

I can not stress this enough. If you think four bags is enough, bring five. I call it the just-in-case bag. A few unexpected 2-for-1 sales can quickly fill the bags. There have been a few scary trips when I left the extra bag in the car and regretted it.

Fabric bags are the best for this as they compress in the larger bag if they are unnecessary and you can use the last of your old pre-banned plastic shopping bags as an emergency overflow bag. (Yes, just because plastic bags are banned from the land register does not mean you are not allowed to bring and use the ones you have).

Prepare your bag for the heavy stuff

The better recyclable plastic bags come with a piece of thicker plastic on the bottom to help provide support for heavy items. Without one, the bottom of the bag hangs in the middle and scrapes the sidewalk.

If your bag did not come with one, or the piece of plastic is too thin to carry the load, cut a piece of cardboard from all of these Amazon delivery boxes to fit the bottom of your bag. The extra support is especially important if you go to and from the supermarket and help when you walk from the store to the car.

Avoid hanging bottom bags

This cardboard insert provides support so that this plastic shopping bag does not scrap the sidewalk when it is filled with groceries.

Get isolated for summer

Like a trip to the beach, use an insulated bag when the weather gets hot for your cold and frozen groceries.

I say this with a caveat: If you have a short walk between the store and home, you can live without one, except for melted groceries such as. ice. If you stop shopping in the middle of your commute and are still facing a 30-minute drive, consider buying an insulated bag and an ice pack. I only use one ice pack on the hottest days.

I have a cheat code when I forget the insulated bag, which has been a success, as in no food poisoning. Put all your cold and frozen groceries in the same bag (or bags) for the trip home. Distribute the load so that you have some frozen goods and cold in the same bag. You use the frozen items as an ice pack to prevent the cold things from getting hot.

Bake up smart

I had to learn to pack these bags so all the heavy stuff is not in one bag for the sake of my arms and the bag. Half a dozen large cans of tomato sauce can fit in a large heavy plastic shopping bag, but that does not mean you have to do it.

Fortunately, I have not tested the weight capacity of the large recyclable plastics. And I do not want to learn the hard way by taking a break. So I divide my heavy items between bags and fill them with lighter items.

You also need to insulate fragments in glass containers or produce in light but very fragile plastic containers and carefully pack items that are sensitive to cold or bruising (I look at you, bananas).

Different bag types for different groceries

This old Whole Foods shopping bag is in a dedicated cat food service. The shape of the bag makes it difficult for small cans to roll out in the car. A bonus – it can be machine washed.

Wash them

Your laundry has a new friend. Cloth bags should be washed at regular intervals, especially after hauling leaky groceries, such as poultry. I throw them in with other laundry and let them air dry. Cleaning also prolongs their life.

Plastic bags can be cleaned as needed with a wet wipe. Your second new assignment? Throw away the receipts that cling to the bottom of the bag.

What I hate about the ban

OK, this is my place to air myself. I totally agree with using reusable bags and it quickly becomes a habit to carry them.

An annoying aspect is the loss of these disposable bags like small garbage bags or dog bags. For years, I’ve had to sneak into the suburbs to buy groceries just so I can get a load of free plastic shopping bags. They have been my secret storage room that stands along my kitchen trash can.

Now that the nationwide ban hits, me and people like me will probably have to buy small garbage bags – which will be used once before going to the landfill, unlike my plastic shopping bags, which were given a double chance to be useful

What will be my solution? It has to be decided.

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Larry Higgs can be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com.

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