Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Environment and Energy Committee Chair Senator Bob Smith and Senate Environment and Energy Committee Vice-Chair Senator Linda Greenstein, which would prohibit stores and food service businesses from providing single-use plastic bags, paper bags, and polystyrene foam cups and food containers to their customers, advanced from Senate today.
The bill, S-864, would place a ban on single-use plastics, paper bags, and polystyrene containers which would take effect two years from its signing.
“The longer we wait, the more damage we do to the environment and to our public health,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “We need to take action to fight against plastic pollution and move, ultimately, towards a plastic-free future. Plastic bag bans have proven effective elsewhere, such as Los Angeles, which saw a ninety-four percent drop in single-use bags. This session, we have the opportunity to become the model for others to follow.”
The bill would not ban plastic straws outright; instead, they would only be available upon request, with the goal of promoting paper straws.
In 2018, experts from various organizations’, including Rutgers and Princeton Universities, participated in a committee meeting with the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee to discuss the issues of single-use plastics and plastic waste. One of the topics discussed was the dangers of microplastics. Studies have revealed that when plastics break down over time they become tiny microplastics. Microplastics are mistaken for food by birds and marine life, and they have become a part of the food chain.
“If you have been to the beach you can see it with your own eyes, our beaches are polluted with plastics. Children dig them up in the sand and swimmers pull plastic bags out of the water. There are an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastics currently in our oceans and about eight-million additional metric tons are added each year,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “New Jersey residents are sick of plastics polluting our most treasured features. We have heard from countless numbers of activists and residents of this state, and they have spoken clearly that they are done with plastic pollution. New Jersey will now be on the path to a future without plastic pollution.”
Businesses in violation of any provision of the bill would be subject to a warning for a first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense, and up to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), municipalities and counties certified under the “County Environmental Health Act” would have the authority to enforce the provisions of the bill. All penalties collected would go to the existing Clean Communities Fund.
The state would be required to establish a program to assist businesses with complying with provisions of the bill.
The DEP would establish a permanent Plastics Advisory Council to annually evaluate the implementation of the act, study health impacts of plastics and alternatives to plastics, and recommend ways to reduce the use of plastics and the amount of plastics entering the environment and increase the rate of recycling of plastics.
The most recent state’s law to take effect is New York State, which took effect on March 1st.
The bill released from the Senate by a vote of 22-14.