How will online grocery shopping work with N.J.’s plastic bag ban? Stores still not sure.


Grocery shopping from home exploded in popularity during the pandemic: shoppers could load up their virtual shopping carts, and have their groceries ready to grab-and-go, or have them delivered to their front doors.

And that comes with a lot of single-use plastic bags, as grocery store employees pack groceries up. But what will happen when New Jersey bans single-use plastic bags and brown paper bags inside grocery stores?

Less than a month out from the ban starting, not every New Jersey grocery store has figured out its plans, leaving shoppers confused about what they should expect after it goes into effect May 4.

Shop from home orders are still subject to the same bag ban rules as shopping inside the store, a Department of Environmental protection spokesperson said, meaning grocery stores can’t use paper bags to package up online orders.

It’s unclear if the DEP issued guidance to stores on best practices for handling these orders, so it’s likely up to each individual store to set their own policies.

ShopRite still has not finalized their shop-from-home plans, nor has Walmart, spokespeople for those companies told NJ Advance Media.

Stop and Shop and Whole Foods, both stores that run their own shop-from-home programs, will pivot to reusable bags, so customers should still expect to pick up their groceries fully bagged, spokespeople for both stores said.

Stop and Shop customers will see a $2 bag fee added to their orders, while Whole Foods will roll the cost into its existing service charges.

Instacart, which sends shoppers to various grocery stores and delivers orders to customers at home, will have its shoppers buy reusable bags at the register, a spokesperson said. That cost will be added on to a customer’s order price.

But won’t all of these solutions — using a fresh set of reusable bags for every order — leave shoppers with a whole lot of reusable bags?

To address those concerns, Stop and Shop is working on setting up a reusable bag drop-off collection in stores; clean bags will then be donated to local food banks, a spokesperson said. Whole Foods is not planning a similar program.

Some stores are already taking steps to prep shoppers for the upcoming change.

A sign at guest services at the Target in Middletown said the store would be bagless, and customers should bring “receptacles” into the store to package up their own orders. A Target representative did not respond to a request for comment.

And at several ShopRites and Stop and Shops around Middlesex and Monmouth counties, signage warning shoppers about the upcoming changes were already posted.

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Katie Kausch may be reached at [email protected]. Still have questions about the bag ban? Ask them here.


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