Budget Committee Passes Plastic Bag Ban Bill

Smith

The Senate Budget Committee this afternoon the senate committee substitute for Bill 2776 – the plastic bag ban bill. The bill prohibits carryout bags made of plastic film, polystyrene foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws; assesses fee on paper carryout bags.

The vote was 8-4-1, a win for bill sponsor Senator Bob Smith (D-17).

The committee’s vote breakdown on the plastic ban bill:

Testa: no

O’scanlon: no

Thompson: no

Oroho: no

Sarlo: yes

Cunningham: yes

Greenstein: yes

Ruiz: yes

Sweeney: yes

Diegnan: yes

Madden: yes

Lagana: yes

Addiego: abstain

“A whole host of unintended consequences,” complained Oroho, who voted against the plastic ban bill in its current form.

Environmentalists rejoiced.

“This is the first major step in banning plastics in New Jersey. This is the most comprehensive plastic bill in the nation because it bans paper bags as well as single-use plastic bags. This bill will also encourage more reusable bags because under the bill stores will give our free reusable bags for two months to help with the transition to no paper or plastic bags. New Jersey is becoming a national leader going after plastics and protecting our environment,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is a win-win-win. A win for the environment, a win for the economy, and a win for the battle against plastic pollution.”

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 for the state of New Jersey. This bill will help protect our rivers and streams from plastic that not only hurt the environment but also endanger our wildlife and public health. Plastics are a menace and an existential threat to our drinking water, beaches, and wildlife. Microplastics have already been found near our drinking water supply, so we could literally be drinking plastic. 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,” said Tittel. “This bill is important because it will ban polystyrene containers and single-use plastic bags, including fake reusable bags, and will allow paper bags to be used during the transition. We think that two years is an appropriate timeline to phase out polystyrene and paper bags.”

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.

“We are glad that the bill passed as is. Some people say they are concerned that phasing out paper bags will adversely affect people from low- and moderate-income areas. I find this notion is condescending and classist. People who live in these communities are some of the strongest environmentalists in the state. These communities understand the impacts of litter and plastic bags on the environment,” Tittel said. “The people in these communities are intelligent and caring when it comes to the environment, and it is condescending to thing that they will not bring reusable bags when they go shopping.”

This is the first bill in the country that would ban paper bags in addition to single-use plastic bags. So far, eight states have banned single-use plastic bags, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

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