NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — A ban on single-use plastic and paper bags began in New Jersey on Wednesday.

The move came about 18 months after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law. The ban on single-use bags was heralded as one of the strictest in the country. 

There are some exceptions to the rule. Stores can still distribute plastic bags for products like fresh produce, raw meat, fish, newspapers, prescription drugs and dry cleaning. While paper bags are included in the ban, businesses that are less than 2,500 square feet such as bodegas, coffee shops and liquor stores will still be able to send customers off with paper bags. 

Business owners reacted to the ban. 

“It’s burdensome. As a small business owner, you already have soaring prices of all the products and we have to educate the customers about it, and now, we have to educate them about bringing their own bags,” BG Patel said.

Patel owns Communipaw Liquors in Jersey City. He agreed doing away with plastic is a step in the right direction but said the alternative of providing customers with paper bags durable enough to carry out bottles and cans is a lot for businesses already dealing with inflation and fallout from the pandemic. 

“They are costly; we aren’t talking about 10 cents. They are about 65 cents each,” Patel said. 

State officials encouraged shoppers to invest in reusable bags. Anyone who notices a business not following the newly implemented rule can report it to New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection. Businesses that violate it could be on the hook for thousands of dollars, depending on the number of violations they incur.