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Bill Package to Reduce Plastic Waste, Combat Plastic Pollution Advances

Trenton – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee advanced a three-bill package sponsored by Senators Bob Smith, Linda Greenstein, and John McKeon that are aimed at reducing plastic waste, combatting the proliferation of plastic in the environment, and protecting human health from the dangers posed by plastics. The Committee’s advancement of these bills comes on the heels of an April 22nd hearing wherein expert testimony highlighted the negative impacts of plastics on health, including an increased risk of cancer and harm to reproductive health.

“Plastics are now all around us, in the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and also in our bodies. April’s hearing on their impacts to our health highlighted the need for further action, to protect both the environment and the general public,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset), the Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “These bills represent a comprehensive, multifaceted effort to reduce the amount of plastic we use across the economy, and they do so by recognizing the responsibility of the companies that produce these plastics to manage their lifecycle, rather than solely putting that burden on average consumers.”

“These bills tackle the myriad issues contributing to plastic waste, from the misleading labeling of products to the issue of who ought to be responsible for managing these products as they are no longer used,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Vice-Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “Based on the testimony presented to our committee last month, reducing the waste that enters our environment, and the unnecessary use of plastics more broadly, is a necessary component to protecting public health and our environment for generations to come.”

“Though our state’s efforts to combat single-use plastics in the form of shopping bags and straws have already made a great impact, those represent just a fraction of the plastic that makes its way into our bodies and into our environment,” said Senator John McKeon (D-Essex/Passaic). “These bills are commonsense reforms, including a limit on the size of shipping containers and restrictions on toxic substances in packaging. We have a responsibility to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastics that we use, and in so doing we will better protect our environment for future generations and the health of us and our children.”

S-224, sponsored by Senators Smith and Greenstein, would prohibit the sale, distribution, and import of certain products marketed as recyclable unless the DEP determines that the product is in fact widely recycled. Currently, misleading application of the symbol for recyclable products leads many consumers to mistakenly place non-recyclable products with products that can actually be recycled, leading to entire batches of recyclable products being disposed in landfills to avoid the costs of separating the products.

S-226, sponsored by Senators Smith and McKeon, would limit the size of shipping boxes that can be utilized by major retailers to ship products to consumers to prohibit the use of a shipping box that is greater than two times the volume of the product being shipped. The current practice of many large online retailers involves the use of shipping boxes that are far larger than the product actually being shipped, which unnecessarily increases packaging waste.

S-3135, sponsored by Senators Smith and McKeon, would require producers of plastic packaging and certain other plastic products sold in New Jersey to reduce the amount, by weight, of their packaging or products sold annually. The bill would also amend the “Toxic Packaging Reduction Act” to prohibit the sale of packaging that contains certain toxic substances, including PFAS, toxic metals, and vinyl chloride.