Ruiz Bill to Establish Fee on Single-Use Bags Advances

Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) testifies in support of legislation that provides in-state tuition to undocumented young adults.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz that would establish a fee on all single-use carryout bags, and dedicate fees to lead abatement in schools and communities passed the Senate today.

“Single-use shopping bags are extremely harmful to the environment, and are responsible for much of the plastic waste plaguing our cities and oceans,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Many other states have passed fees or complete bans on single-use bags, and when we saw towns within the state doing the same on their own, we knew it was time to take action as a state.”

Beginning on October 1, 2018, stores would be required to charge $0.05 for each single-use bag given to a customer. The bill would apply to chain stores and drug stores, supermarkets, or retail establishments that have over 2,000 square feet of retail space.

Customers enrolled as participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), or the Work First New Jersey Program would be exempt from the fee.

Stores would be required to show the number of bags provided and the total fee collected on the receipt given to the customer. Store operators would keep $0.01 of the fee collected, and the remaining $0.04 would go to the Director of Taxation. Up to 1 percent of revenue could go towards funding the program, and the remainder would go to the “Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund.”

Money in the lead abatement fund would be used by the Department of Environmental Protections (DEP), in consultation with the Department of Community Affairs, and the Department of Health for lead abatement in schools and communities.

The bill, S-2600, would require the DEP to establish a public information program to inform the public of the harmful environmental effects of single-use bags and encourage consumers to switch to reusable bags. The program would also provide information on the fee charged for single-use bags.

Communities that have put in place single-use bag prohibitions prior to the bill’s signing would be grandfathered in, existing local bag bans would remain in place.

The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 23-16.