Plastic Bag Bill on Gov’s Desk- More Towns Pass Bag Bans
Today is the 45th day since A.3267(Huttle)/S.2600(Ruiz) was passed. The bill is supposed to be dealt with the next time the New Jersey State Assembly meets. There are now 16 towns and 1 county that have passed or have pending ordinances to put fees and or ban single use plastic bags. Towns include: Monmouth Beach, Teaneck, Longport, Long Beach, Ventor, Belmar, Point Pleasant Beach, Hoboken, Harvey Cedars, Stafford Township, Jersey City, Bradley Beach, Stone Harbor, Newark, Montclair, Edison, and Atlantic County. More New Jersey towns are joining the plastic bag ban bandwagon however the plastic bag fee bill on Governor Murphy’s desk would block town and city efforts if signed. There will be a Senate and Assembly joint Committee meeting on plastics, including plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam on August 23rd.
“As the plastic bag fee bill sits on the Governor’s desk, there has been more momentum from towns on banning plastic bags. Since the legislature has passed the bill, 16 towns have or are working to ban plastic bag. Towns are banning plastic because they know how bad they are to our health and the environment’s health. Plastic has become a menace to the environment and we should be taking the strongest efforts possible to get rid of it. That’s why we our legislature to support a comprehensive ban on single use plastics,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We also need Governor Murphy to continue the plastic ban momentum and fully veto or fix the plastic bag fee bill. It would block town efforts from having a plastic bag ban and sides with the supermarket industry over the environment.”
Plastic has become a bigger and bigger problem that affects our environment. It’s not just in the Pacific, it’s also here in New Jersey. Rutgers scientists recently found densities of about 28,000 to more than 3 million plastic particles per square kilometer in the Passaic and Raritan River. Last year, beach sweeps in New Jersey have found that more than 80% of their trash is plastic and also found an increase in plastic straw waste by 59%. This past July there more than a dozen Jersey Shore beaches closed when syringes, needles, plastic and other trash washed up. Emergency cleanups netted 100lbs of plastic at these Jersey Shore beaches.
“The reason we need a ban is because plastic is a serious public health and environmental risk. When plastic breaks down into micro-pieces, animals like fish and birds ingest them and can enter our food chain. This is a huge human health risk because there are toxins in the plastic. The whale found with 17lbs of plastic in Thailand shows that this issue is getting worse. Animals, especially birds, get strangled and suffocated by plastic bags. It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose and end up in our in our landfills or break down into micro-pieces that contaminate ecosystems and environments,” said Tittel. “Plastic bags have been known to clog storm drains and fill up detention basins which affects our water quality. What’s even worse is that beaches are closing because of all of this plastic waste that washes up from the shore.”
The Senate and Assembly recently passed a bill that would put a fee on plastic bags. The bill, A3267 (Vainieri Huttle)/S2600 (Ruiz) establishes a fee on single-use carryout bags used in certain stores and dedicates fee revenue to “Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund.” The bill imposes a 5-cent fee on single-use carry out bags. The Budget FY 2019 however does not include language for the plastic bag fee.
“The reason Governor Murphy needs to veto the plastic bag fee bill is because it would be terrible for the environment, putting more plastic into waterways, harm wildlife, and increase fracking and fossil fuel use. The bill includes a preemption that will block cities and towns from having plastic bans. Other places like Montclair, Newark and Edison are looking to ban plastic bags and this bill would prevent them from going forward,” said Tittel. “Towns should be able to pass stronger ordinances to reduce their plastic footprint.”
Studies show that putting fees on plastic bags does not really work to reduce their use. Instead, banning the bags has shown significant progress. 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.
“We will not reduce our plastic waste with a fee which is why New Jersey needs a statewide ban. The plastic bag fee bill has no sunset provision which means the fee for plastic bags can go on forever. Currently, supermarkets must pay for plastic bags but under this bill, they get a penny a bag. This means they have an incentive for using more plastic bags,” said Tittel. “Under this plastic bag fee bill, we would use 750 million plastic bags a year, that’s a lot of damage to the environment.”
There will be a Senate and Assembly joint Committee meeting on plastics, including plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam on August 23rd. This is near the same time the state legislature will meet and when Governor Murphy needs to act by. The New Jersey Sierra Club is asking Governor Murphy to veto the plastic bag bill and support a comprehensive plastic ban like Senator Smith’s bill, S.2776. Smith’s newly introduced bill prohibits use of plastic carryout bags rather than puts a fee on them. The bill also includes banning expanded polystyrene and single-use plastic straws.
“The Governor must veto the plastic bag fee bill so we can start over fresh. But if he doesn’t, he must completely rewrite it through a CV by getting rid of the preemption, including a 2-year sunset where it becomes a ban, and put a fee on all other single use or reusable bags. If there is going to be a fee, it should be going where it is supposed to, to remove lead from homes and protect children’s drinking water,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “If the Governor doesn’t want to CV the bill and do the right thing, then we hope the legislature will act and move forward with a comprehensive bill like Smith’s bill. S2772 (Smith) would put a ban on single use plastic bags, plastic straws, and polystyrene.”