TRENTON, NJ--The Assembly has passed S864 (Smith)/A1978 (Pinkin) and the Senate concurred. The bill prohibits the provision or sale of single-use plastic
carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, and expanded polystyrene foam food service products. It also limits provision of single-use plastic straws and appropriates moneys from the Clean Communities Program Fund for public education. The bill passed the Assembly with a vote of 48-24-7 and the Senate concurred with a vote of 26-12. The bill is now on the governor’s desk to sign.
“This is a major environmental victory in our battle against plastics. The Legislature has passed the most comprehensive plastic bill in the nation. This bill will help protect our rivers and streams from plastic that not only hurts the environment but also endangers our wildlife and public health. Plastics are a scourge on our environment. Plastic bags have been known to clog storm drains and fill up detention basins, affecting our water quality. Animals, especially birds, get strangled and suffocated by plastic bags. This legislation is critical because it could make New Jersey a national leader in going after plastics and protecting our environment,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This bill is going to make a big difference in New Jersey. Not only will it reduce our plastic pollution, but it will also save taxpayers money because of tipping fees and the costs of cleaning up storm drains and litter. The Governor needs to sign it as quickly as possible.”
Bans on plastic have proven to be effective. For example, Los Angeles County saw a 94 percent reduction in single-use bags after implementing a ban. This included a 30 percent reduction in paper bag use with a 10-cent fee on other bags. In San Jose, they saw an 89 percent decrease of bags in storm drains, 60 percent fewer in creeks, and 59 percent fewer in streets.
“This is a groundbreaking bill because it is the first in the nation to ban paper bags and allow for the use of hemp bags. We need to be using better alternatives to plastic bags, including hemp bags and reusable bags. Paper bags use more energy and resources than plastic bags do, and they produce more waste than plastic bag production. Banning paper bags will help us move quickly to truly reusable bags and more environmentally-friendly alternatives like hemp,” said Tittel. “This bill is important because it will ban polystyrene containers and single-use plastic bags, including fake thick plastic reusable bags, and will allow paper bags to be used during the transition before banning those as well.”
The bill would prohibit the use of single-use plastic carryout bags and paper bags in stores and food service businesses, and would ban food service businesses from offering single-use plastic straws. It would also ban the sale of polystyrene and would prohibit food service businesses from selling or providing food packaged in polystyrene containers.
“This is an important day in New Jersey. We have been fighting to get this bill passed for over two years. We cannot afford to wait any longer. This legislation not only bans plastic bags, but also polystyrene and the offering of plastic straws. Polystyrene is dangerous to human health because it contains carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene and styrene, and it has been found in breast milk. It is harmful to the environment because it is not recyclable and does not degrade. Plastic straws pollute our oceans and beaches. Last year, New Jersey found that more than 80% of their trash is plastic and found an increase in plastic straw waste by 59%,” said Tittel. “By reducing how much plastic we use, we can also reduce fracking and fossil fuel use. Plastics are made from natural gas, which means more fossil fuel use, more pipelines, and more fracking.”
Plastics have become a bigger and bigger problem that affects our environment. Rutgers scientists found densities of about 28,000 to more than 3 million plastic particles per square kilometer in the Passaic and Raritan Rivers. Beach sweeps in New Jersey found that beaches from Monmouth County down to Cape May County have microplastics in the ocean and on the beach.
“This is a critical step forward when it comes to protecting our environment from plastics. People are fed up with plastic pollution filling up their storm drains and threatening their drinking water. We have been banning plastic in New Jersey town by town and city by city. With this legislation, we will now have one standard for the entire state. This makes it easier for everyone to follow and implement. It is important that we will now have a statewide ban on plastics to stop plastics getting into our environment and into us. Microplastics have already been found near our drinking water supply, so we could literally be drinking plastic,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We cannot wait any longer. Governor Murphy needs to sign this bill as soon as possible to protect New Jersey from the scourge of plastic.”