Monmouth poll: One year later, New Jerseyans support plastic bag ban and have accumulated plenty of reusable bags

Plastic bags and straws — two absences that New Jerseyans are still getting used to.

Some of us (me included) still go into a store without a reusable bag; it’s either in the car or left at home. Others bring the many they have accumulated with them as they shop. In fact, according to the latest Monmouth University poll released Wednesday, most have acquired at least 10 reusable shopping bags since the plastic bag ban went into effect last year.

The results of the poll of 814 adults conducted from Aug. 10 to 14, showed 9 in 10 New Jerseyans (89%) bring their own bags when they go grocery shopping, which is up from 38% who reported doing this in a poll taken a month before the ban went into effect last year. About 1 in 10 residents (9%), though, remain unaware that the state has instituted a plastic bag ban.

The Wednesday-released poll also found that the majority of New Jerseyans continued to support a ban on single-use plastic bags (56%), although this is a few points lower than shortly before the ban went into effect (61% in April 2022).

“There has been a small dip in support since the state’s plastic bag ban went into effect, but most New Jerseyans are still on board with it,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute said.

Overall, 45% of New Jerseyans said, based on their own experience, that all stores in the state are following the plastic bag ban, and another 45% said most stores are. Thinking about the last time they went to a New Jersey deli or restaurant for takeout in the last six months, just 11% said they received their order in a plastic bag, while 53% were given a paper bag and 29% did not get any bag.

A similar majority (56%) supported banning Styrofoam food containers, but this was also slightly lower than last year (64%). Less than half (44%) of the public supports banning large supermarkets from giving out paper bags, as the law now requires. This result is down 3 points from 2022 (47%).

With so many New Jerseyans using their own bags, the poll also asked how many reusable shopping bags they have acquired over the past year, including those purchased and others they were given at stores or with food deliveries. A majority of residents report accumulating more than 10 bags, with 16% saying they have gotten more than 50 reusable bags, 12% who got between 26 and 50 bags and 26% who got between 11 and 25 bags.

Those who have gotten more than five bags were asked what they do with their surplus. Most New Jerseyans (62%) keep their extra bags, 20% recycle some of them and 7% throw at least some in the trash. The latter numbers go up among those who have accumulated more than 25 bags for both recycling (35%) and disposal (15%) of their extra bags.

“Fewer single-use bags are making their way into the waste stream, but we now face a growing stockpile of reusable bags that New Jerseyans don’t know what to do with,” Murray said.

Meanwhile, the poll also found that current support for a plastic straw ban stands at 50%, which is similar to last year (52%). Plastic straws are available only by request under state regulations that went into effect in 2021. One-quarter of New Jerseyans (25%) report they were given a plastic straw when they last purchased a drink in a cup at a food establishment in the state. Another 45% received a paper straw and 23% did not get any straw.