New Jersey shoppers: it’s time to break out your reusable bags.

Starting on May 4th, New Jersey will join New York and several other states in banning its retail stores, supermarkets, and food service businesses from handing out plastic carryout bags or polystyrene foam products.

In addition to the wider ban on plastic, New Jersey will also become the first state in the nation to prevent grocery stores from distributing paper bags. Shoppers will instead be encouraged to bring their own bags or purchase a reusable one at check-out – or else find themselves carrying out their groceries by hand.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law in November 2020, allowing for an 18-month grace period. Its passage came amid concerns that other state’s anti-plastic measures, including the bag ban signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York, would lead to a major uptick in environmentally-harmful paper bag use.

One 2011 study by the Environment Agency in the U.K. found that the production of paper bags actually produces more waste than plastic bag production.

Environmentalists have praised the Garden State’s law as a national model that takes into account the toll posed by all single use bags. According to the League of Conservation Voters, New Jersey currently uses 4.4 billion single-use plastic bags and 1,300 football fields of trees worth of paper bags on an annual basis.

The ban does allow for a handful of exceptions, including for bags that are used for uncooked meat and fish, food prepared to order, laundry, newspapers, or pharmacies, according to New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Restaurants can also opt out of the ban on polystyrene foam products if they have less than $500,000 in annual income, or if there is no viable commercial impact.

A full breakdown of the new rules and exemptions can be found here.