NJ Legislature passes nation’s toughest ban on plastic and paper bags. Here’s what he does

The most sweeping ban on plastic products and paper bags in the United States is just one step away from becoming law in New Jersey.

The Assembly and Senate on Thursday passed a bill that will enact several restrictions on everyday products in an effort to curb plastic pollution that has flooded New Jersey’s beaches, shorelines and water supplies.

It will now go to Governor Phil Murphy, who signaled his support for a statewide ban on plastics two years ago when he vetoed a bill that would have imposed a tax on plastics. plastic bags.

The bill has three main components:

  • It bans film-wrapped plastic bags, like those found in grocery stores, regardless of their thickness.
  • It also bans paper bags in supermarkets over 2,500 square feet in an effort to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags, such as woven plastic tote bags with handles.
  • Plastic straws would only be available on request in restaurants – something disability advocates have long called for.

The Senate passed a similar version of the bill in early March, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but had to agree to minor changes on Thursday. The bill passed the Assembly 48 to 24, mostly on party lines, and the Senate 26 to 12.

Opponents, including business groups and Republican lawmakers, said the measure would hurt everything from large manufacturers to small businesses such as restaurants, which would have to find more expensive alternatives.

Environmental groups were focused on a ban on plastic bags, not paper bags. But in order to get an influential trade group for supermarkets to back the bill, paper bags also had to be banned. Supermarkets have complained that it would be more expensive to supply customers with paper bags than plastic ones.

“The paper bag ban is critically important to the success of this legislation,” said Linda Doherty, president of the New Jersey Food Council, ahead of Thursday’s vote. “Without a ban, consumers will simply switch to single-use paper bags and we will not achieve the underlying goal of reducing our reliance on single-use products.”

Abigail Sztein, the newspaper association’s government affairs director, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem.” Unlike plastic bags, paper bags are easily recyclable in home pickups or can be reused in compost, she said.

Sztein called on Murphy to conditionally veto the bill and remove the paper bag ban.

Congresswoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, said the bill could unnecessarily harm New Jersey papermakers since the original intent was to ban plastic. “It’s bad timing and it’s bad policy,” she said.

The bill would reverse dozens of municipal bans that have been passed in recent years in cities across the state, including many on the Jersey Shore where plastics often wash up on the beach.

Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator and president of advocacy group Beyond Plastics, called the bill “the most comprehensive plastics and paper reduction bill in the nation.”

“Now we can all hope to pick up less litter on our beaches,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action. “There will be less plastics in the ocean to cause harm and death to marine life.”

  • More than 80% of the litter picked up during annual beach cleanups from Cape May to Sandy Hook by Clean Ocean Action volunteers has been plastic in recent years.
  • A 2016 report by NY/NJ Baykeeper estimated that there were nearly 166 million pieces of microscopic plastic floating in the waterways of New Jersey and New York.
  • Scientists have found microplastics in some of the most pristine rivers and creeks, including the upper Raritan and Passaic rivers.

The ban on plastic and paper bags would come into effect 18 months after its enactment.

Similarly, foam food products and containers like clamshell take-out boxes would be banned in 18 months.

Restaurants would be allowed to provide a plastic straw to a customer upon request one year after the law was signed.

  • Reusable plastic take-out bags with sewn-on handles that many supermarket chains sell at checkouts for around $1.
  • Bags used only for uncooked meat, fish or poultry
  • Bags used only for bulk items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, cereals, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers or small hardware.
  • Bags used only to contain live animals, such as fish
  • Bags used only to hold sliced ​​or made-to-order foods, including soup or hot foods
  • A laundry, dry cleaning or clothes bag
  • Bags containing prescription drugs
  • A newspaper bag

After the foam container ban comes into effect, other products made from the same polystyrene material would get another two-year grace period before being banned. They are:

  • Disposable polystyrene spoons with long handle for thick drinks
  • Small cups of two ounces or less used for hot foods
  • Trays for raw meat, poultry or fish commonly found in supermarkets
  • Any food pre-packaged in polystyrene by the manufacturer, such as ramen noodles

Any company that violates the bill would receive a first offense warning, a fine of up to $1,000 for a second offense and a fine of up to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense.

Writer Ashley Balcerzak contributed to this story.

Email: [email protected]: @newsfallon

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ Legislature passes nation’s toughest ban on plastic and paper bags. Here’s what he does

Ethel J. Montes