Food pantries given 6-month extension on plastic bag ban to help make transition

Food banks and food pantries in New Jersey say that they are worried about how a plastic bag ban in the state will impact their organizations.
The ban will go into effect on May 4.
“In 2021, we distributed almost 18 million pounds of food. In 2020, it was 22 million pounds of food,” says Fred Wasiak, president and CEO of Food Bank of South Jersey.
The need for food is still well above the pre-pandemic levels in New Jersey. And Wasiak says that all of this food is distributed in plastic bags.
“Our mobile distributions use bags because it’s also protecting our dry goods – our box goods – from the weather, inclement weather. We’re outside setting up tents and so forth, so just to help contain and protect the food that they’re taking home is important,” Wasiak says.
Food banks and pantries were given an extra six months to continue using plastic bags. Wasiak says that the organizations are now pivoting to find alternatives.
“We as a food bank, sustainability is a direction we’re always thriving for. And so the fact that we do believe in the environment. But the work that we do and the people that we serve, we need to have that great transition time,” he says.
The Food Bank of South Jersey says that the six-month extension will allow them the time to transition from plastic bags to reusable bags. They say that they are hoping that local businesses will partner with them to help offset the cost.
“We’ll be looking for partnerships. We’ll be looking for funders and we are going to have to purchase reusable bags,” Wasiak says.
He says that it is yet to be seen what the price difference will be going from plastic bags to reusable bags. Each family typically goes home with several bags of food.
"We just don't want them to have to incur any extra expense, so it is going to be a collaborative and strategic process for us to ensure after six months we’re ready to go,” Wasiak says.
The state will be supplying 500,000 reusable bags to these organizations to help get them started.