New Jersey's Legislature passed a retail bag and expanded polystyrene packaging ban Sept. 24 that both industry and environmental groups said would be among the country's strictest.
The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy, would ban single-use plastic and paper bags and EPS cups and containers, and it would require plastic straws be available only upon request. It would go into effect 18 months after signing.
State Senator Bob Smith, D-Piscataway, one of the authors of the bill and chair of the Environment and Energy Committee, said the legislation was necessary to address environmental damage from plastic pollution, and he pointed to problems with plastic products breaking down into microplastics in the environment.
"Taking action to fight plastic pollution now is key to moving towards a plastic-free future," Smith said in a statement. "Plastic bag bans have proven effective in cities such as Los Angeles, which saw a 94 percent drop in single-use bags."
But the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance called the bag ban misguided, saying it will harm consumers and New Jersey manufacturers.
"The ban will force businesses struggling to stay afloat amidst the pandemic into an impossible situation of being required to provide bags that are much more expensive, harder to procure and ironically have worse impacts on the environment," said ARPBA Director Zachary Taylor. "As a result, consumers will see higher prices and manufacturing jobs across the state will be put at risk — benefiting no one as the pandemic and its economic fallout continue."
Besides the product bans, the bill would also require the state to set up a Plastics Advisory Council, as part of the Department of Environmental Protection, to look at the impact of plastics in the environment and boosting recycling.
A statement from the New Jersey Senate Democratic caucus said the council would report annually on the bill's implementation.
Murphy, a Democrat, vetoed a bill in 2018 that would have put a 5-cent fee on both plastic and paper bags, saying he wanted stronger action.