New Jersey's plastic bag ban has shifted consumer bag use to reusables while also resulting in a 40 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and creating a profit center for retailers selling reusable bags, a new study says.
The Jan. 9 study, prepared by Freedonia Custom Research and funded by the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, said that since the state's single-use bag ban went into effect in May 2022, total bag volumes in the state have dropped 60 percent to about 900 million bags.
But it pointed to a six-fold increase in polypropylene used to make woven and nonwoven PP reusable bags and said 90 percent of alternative bags are used only two or three times, much less than the reuse rates needed to mitigate higher greenhouse gas emissions from those bags.
"This shift in material resulted in a notable environmental impact, with the increased consumption of polypropylene bags contributing to a 500 percent increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to non-woven polypropylene bag production in 2015," according to a news release from Freedonia.
The study said the typical nonwoven PP bag, the dominant alternative bag, uses 15 times as much plastic and produces five times the GHG emissions in production than the single-use polyethylene bag.
As a result, it said overall GHG emissions from production of bags sold in the state increased 40 percent after the ban, compared with the baseline in 2015.
"Although plastic film bag emissions saw a reduction of nearly 90 percent, released emissions from other retail bag options greatly influenced overall greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in an increase," the study said.
But the study also suggested that under what it called a "high reuse" scenario, overall GHG emissions could fall by up to 70 percent.