New Jersey lawmakers passed the strongest ban on single-use containers in the nation on Thursday.
The bill bans single-use plastic bags and single-use paper bags at grocery stores that are 2,500 square feet or larger. Polystyrene containers and plastic straws are also banned but consumers could ask for a plastic straw.
New Jersey is the first state in the country to ban single-use paper bags.
The ban takes effect in 18 months and imposes a $1,000 fine for a second offense and up to $5,000 in fines for third and subsequent violations.
Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi said the bill was too costly.
“This bill literally will kill jobs in New Jersey for some of our current manufacturing facilities and is sending them to arguably the world’s largest polluter which is China that manufactures the reusable bags,” Schepisi said on the Assembly floor.
Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon shot back at a comment from Assemblyman Brian Bergan that called the bill “lunacy.”
“You know what lunacy is?” said McKeon, one of the bill’s sponsors. ‘There’s about to be more plastics than fish in our oceans and waterways.”
New Jersey environmental groups praised the bill’s passage in a joint news release.
“This legislation will actually save taxpayers money because of the cots of cleaning up storm drains, plastics jamming recycling machines and tipping fee at landfills,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This legislation is critical because it could make New Jersey a national leader in trying to top the plastic menace while coming up with better alternatives.”
But trade groups said the bill will be more costly for taxpayers. A study showed that converting from polystyrene containers will cost New Jersey schools a collective $4 million, according to Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey in an editorial published on the organization’s website.
“A1978/S864 is so far reaching that it will ban food trays for items like ground beef, chicken, and vegetables.” Hart said in the editorial. “New Jersey supermarkets that purchase prepackaged products, will now have to unwrap them and put the food on a different type of tray that complies with this legislation. This legislation will create more unwanted waste, since the polystyrene tray will have to be thrown out along with the wrapping and increase the chances of food contamination since it will require more food handling.”
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign the bill.
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