Freedonia Report on New Jersey’s Failed Single-Use Bag Ban Garners Nationwide Traction

National publications — from The Wall Street Journal to Bloomberg — have provided commentary and reporting on the study’s findings.

After Freedonia Custom Research (FCR) published its findings (1/9/24) that New Jersey’s single-use bag ban increased plastic consumption in the state, ensuing reporting and commentary has gained national attention:

A Fit of Virtue-Signaling.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, characterizing New Jersey’s 2020 passage of the bag ban as a “fit of virtue-signaling,” notes that the Freedonia study found that because of “the larger carbon footprint of the heavier, non-woven polypropylene bags, greenhouse gas emissions rose 500%,” due to production of these material-heavy bags. The Editorial Board mentions that 90% of reusable bags are used only two or three times before “piling up in landfills and homes.”

That organic cotton New Yorker tote bag — a style choice, but not the environmentally conscious choice.

Remember how we all stopped using plastic bags following bag bans? Yeah, me neither. That’s the rhetorical question Bloomberg energy and commodities columnist David Fickling opens with in his piece covering the Freedonia Study. Citing the report, he states that “usage of plastic for grocery bags in New Jersey increased threefold after a 2022 ban.”

Fickling also brings in a bevy of additional studies — from both government and independent sources — that only reaffirm the Freedonia report and point to issues with the increased environmental footprint of reusable bags. One such study found that a reusable plastic bag must be used 52 times before its environmental impact drops below that of a disposable one. What about those cotton tote bags that are so popular with climate activists?… Those need to be reused 20,000 times.

Other states don’t want to emulate New Jersey’s short-sighted plastic bag legislation.

Prominent political commentator Armstrong Williams notes the realities of consumer behavior when using plastic bags. He opens his column for the Baltimore Sun highlighting the inconvenient truth for environmentalists: people forget to bring reusable bags when shopping, necessitating the purchase of another bag, and thus, “the cycle continues.”

Stating that Maryland has similar county-level bans, he asks, do single-use plastic bag laws work? He writes that Freedonia’s research answers “no.” Expanding on this assertion, he concludes by stating, “[plastic bag bans] don’t appear to be doing the job, as evidenced by a study of New Jersey’s law.”

Bag bans — ignoring avenues for other meaningful legislation.

Other states with similar plastic bag laws on the books are experiencing an uptick in plastic bag usage. In addition to citing the Freedonia Report, Kristen Walker, policy analyst for the American Consumer Institute, in her op-ed for Fox News, points to California as another example of increasing plastic waste due to restrictions on retail bags. She writes that since California’s 2014 bag ban, “the tonnage of discarded plastic bags had jumped 47%.”

Reusable Bags: a cottage industry for retailers.

Due to consumers being mandated by the state to purchase reusable bags, big-box stores and large retailers reap large profits from bag sales while Americans foot the bill. Patrick Gleason, Vice President of State Policy at Americans for Tax Reform, using findings from the Freedonia Report, provides commentary on this ‘tax’ on shoppers — to the benefit of retailers — in his column for Forbes:

New Jersey’s plastic and paper bag ban has created a new revenue stream for retailers, one funded by what is effectively a regressive tax on New Jersey households. In fact, the study found one retailer with 50 stores across New Jersey made an estimated $42 million off reusable bag fees alone. The new source of revenue is nice for retailers, but it’s coming from what is effectively a tax on New Jersey residents, disproportionately harming to those who can least afford it. — Gleason

And more reporting.

USA Today, covering the Freedonia study, included a quote from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s statement in 2020 upon signing the bag ban into law; he stated that the legislation would “help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.” As evident from the data, New Jersey’s bag ban has intensified plastic consumption — the inverse of the law’s goal.

CBS New York also aired a segment covering the Freedonia study.