NJ governor signs strict single-use paper, plastic bag ban into law

While some states impose a fee on paper bags, NJ lawmakers say state would be first to ban paper bags

New Jersey's comprehensive ban on single-use plastic and paper bags was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday, marking what some claim is the "strongest" measure against single-use plastics in the nation.

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The new law prohibits all stores and food-service businesses statewide from using such items, as well as disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam, starting in May 2022. Food-service businesses will only be able to provide single-use plastic straws upon request starting November 2021.

While some states impose a fee on paper bags, New Jersey lawmakers say the state would be the first to ban paper bags.

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"Paper bags require resources and energy to produce, contributing to pollution," Murphy said in a statement, adding that moving forward, the state will focus on switching to reusable bags.

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"We are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations," Murphy said, adding that this is a "significant step" by the state to reduce harm and the effects of pollution on the environment.

Republicans had opposed the measure earlier this year, saying it would wallop small businesses that have been badly hurt by the pandemic. Some industry group leaders were in agreement, saying the ban comes while the world continues to grapple with the economic downturn.

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"This bill impacts manufacturing plants in New Jersey and New Jersey jobs during this terrible economic and pandemic time,” Dennis Hart, the executive director of the Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers, previously said.

Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the measure, calling it a “major environmental victory.”

“There were those who wanted legislation that only put a fee on plastic and fought for a weak bill 2 years ago," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a statement Wednesday. "Now we have the strongest plastic ban in the nation."

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The following products will be exempt from the ban until 2024, according to the governor's announcement.

  • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
  • Portion cups of 2 ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
  • Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance;
  • Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product; and
  • Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by Department of Environmental Protection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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