Plastic Bag Ban Passes Senate
Today, the Senate passed S864 (Smith/Greenstein). The bill prohibits the provision or sale of single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, and 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. It will go into effect 18 months after signing for plastic bags, paper bags, and polystyrene, and 1 year for plastic straws. The bill was passed with a vote of 22-14.
“The Senate has taken the first step towards getting this bill passed as soon as possible. Every day of delay means that more plastics are getting into our environment and into us. This is the most comprehensive plastic bill in the nation because it bans paper bags as well as single-use 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. “We have been fighting to get this bill passed for over two years. Given the delays, it is important that they have changed the effective date to 18 months instead of 2 years. The Assembly must push this bill through quickly, because the longer we delay the worse our plastic problem gets.”
Last year, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that the use of thick ‘reusable’ plastic bags in the UK increased from 960 million in 2018 to 1.5 billion 2019, likely a direct result of a country-wide single use plastic bag ban. This shows that consumers are using thicker plastic bags in the same disposable manner as single-use plastic bags, because they are being regularly replaced. The study recommended banning thick plastic bags entirely to effectively reduce plastic waste for the UK.
“It is important to get this bill through both houses and to the Governor’s desk as quickly as possible. This legislation is critical because it bans so-called ‘reusable’ thick plastic bags as well as single-use bags. There has been a push for these fake reusable bags to replace thin plastic bags, but these bags do not work. Places that replace single-use plastic with these ‘bags for life’ still find piles of them in the garbage or polluting the environment. Because they are thicker and woven with fine plastic fibers, they only increase our plastic waste problem and become microplastics that enter our water supplies and food chain,” said Jeff Tittel. “We need to ban plastics, but these thicker plastic bags would only continue to clog our storm drains, kill our wildlife, and pollute our drinking water. We are glad that this legislation will protect us from all plastics, regardless of thickness.”
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 an important day for the state of New Jersey. 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. Without this legislation, plastics will continue to kill whales and get into our environment and into us. 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 thick plastic reusable bags, and will allow paper bags to be used during the transition before banning those as well.”
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. In New Jersey, towns like Paramus, Bayonne, Lambertville, Avalon, Belmar, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Teaneck are all passing plastic bag ban ordinances.
“This legislation is a major step forward in dealing with single-use plastic bags as well as polystyrene and 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 Jeff 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 micro plastics in the ocean and on the beach.
“Now that the Senate has passed this bill, the Assembly needs to pass it as quickly as possible. This is landmark legislation for New Jersey when it comes to plastics. People are fed up with plastic pollution filling up their storm drains and threatening their drinking water. 38 towns in New Jersey already have plastic bans in effect, 18 have passed ordinances that are not yet in effect, and dozens more are in the process. New Jersey’s Legislature needs to stand up and be as bold as places like Jersey City and Sea Bright. We need this comprehensive statewide ban to combat our plastic pollution effectively,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Assembly must work quickly to get this to the governor’s desk to sign before our plastic waste problem gets worse. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”