Even paper bags will be banned in NJ supermarkets

Paper or plastic? In New Jersey, don’t try either.

The state legislature on Thursday voted to make New Jersey the first in the country to ban single-use paper bags in supermarkets as well as all single-use plastic bags in stores and restaurants.

Eight other states, including California, New York and Vermont, have banned single-use plastic bags currently in effect or expected to come into effect In the years to come.

But by banning single-use plastic and paper bags, as well as disposable food containers and styrofoam cups, conservationists have said New Jersey’s bill is among the strictest in the world. United States.

“This bill is probably the strongest and most comprehensive bill in the country for plastics and packaging,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who had helped lead the campaign for the prohibition. “This will greatly contribute to our fight against plastic pollution. “

Opponents of the bill had argued that it could hurt businesses and that the ban should be limited to plastic bags, as many see paper bags as an environmentally friendly alternative.

But Mr Tittel said that by banning paper bags, New Jersey would push people to use bags made from recycled or other sustainable materials.

Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the American Forest and Paper Association, which represents companies in the paper industry, said she hopes the governor will block the ban on paper bags.

“The New Jersey legislature has undermined an environmentally responsible option for consumers,” she said in a statement Thursday. In addition, the paper bag ban sends an alarming message by devaluing salaried family jobs, which are often union work, in addition to the indirect jobs supported by the paper and wood products industry in the state. . “

The ban would begin 18 months after the bill comes into force. A spokesman for Governor Philip D. Murphy said Thursday that Murphy intends to sign the bill.

“The governor is proud to support the country’s toughest bag ban,” spokesman Mahen Gunaratna said. “This bill will significantly reduce the damage these products cause to our environment. “

Single-use plastic and paper bags have environmental costs that have caught the attention of conservationists and lawmakers in recent years.

Plastic bags, which can take centuries to decompose, account for about 12% of total plastic waste in America. Paper bags generally require more energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce.

States and cities have adopted a patchwork of different policies for the use of bags. Some, like New York State, have focused on banning the distribution of plastic bags, which have long been associated with waste and pollution.

States have also adopted less restrictive measures to deter people from using paper bags. For example, in California, stores must charge at least 10 cents for recycled paper bags.

Many of the restrictions, in California and elsewhere, have been suspended during the pandemic.

The ban on plastic bags in New York was due to go into effect on March 1. But a lawsuit challenging the ban has delayed its implementation. Last week, state officials said the ban would now go into effect on October 19.

Several states, including Florida, have gone the other way, passing laws prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags. The plastics industry is also using the pandemic to argue that single-use plastic bags are safer than reusable bags.

In fact, some businesses in New Jersey and elsewhere have stopped allowing customers to use their own bags during the outbreak.

The New Jersey bill states that the ban on plastic and paper bags does not apply to bags used solely to wrap meat or fish, laundry bags or newspaper bags, among other exceptions.

The bill drew support from the New Jersey Food Council, an industry group representing food retailers and suppliers, which argued that navigating different policies regarding bags that can be used in different municipalities across the state was tedious for retailers.

“The ban on paper bags is of crucial importance; they have an environmental impact just as important as plastic bags, ”said Linda Doherty, president and CEO of the board. “Without this ban, consumers would have simply switched to single-use paper bags, failing to achieve the underlying goal of reducing our reliance on single-use products.”

Other industry groups opposed the ban.

Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, said lawmakers rushed to pass the bill without carefully considering the relative advantages of polystyrene products over alternatives. He said the ban would hurt manufacturers and other New Jersey-based businesses.

“Restaurants in New Jersey, God knows how many of them will survive the pandemic,” he said. “Even if they do, they’re going to be in bad financial shape for a very long time. All this bill will do is add more cost burdens for a lower quality product.

Ethel J. Montes

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