Written for The Argo by Amanda Wallace
New Jersey is currently signing into law what is one of the strictest bans in the United States on single-use plastic bags. The State Assembly and Senate passed the bill on September 24, 2020. It is now awaiting a signature by Governor Murphy, and if all goes as planned, it will be in effect 18 months after being signed into law. It is not clear when the governor will officially sign the bill into law.
What does this ban include?
When this bill goes into effect, there will be a ban on single-use plastic bags in grocery stores, single-use paper bags in supermarkets over 2,500 square feet, and polystyrene foam food-service products. Single-use plastic straws will be limited and only handed out upon request. However, items such as newspaper bags, laundry bags, pharmacy bags for prescription drugs, and bags that contain loose vegetables, uncooked fish, and raw meat will be exempt from this bill.
Why is this important?
Plastic is one of the leading causes of environmental pollution and is a big problem throughout the state. The Jersey Shore is littered with plastic bags, bottles, and other items that pollute the wildlife on land and end up in the ocean, where microplastics are often ingested by marine life. Rivers and forests all over New Jersey experience major plastic pollution. Plastic and paper bags also harm the environment because they have a large carbon footprint and are made from non-renewable resources. Enacting this ban in New Jersey is a significant step in the right direction to cleaning up the state’s environment and reducing plastic pollution.
Who supports this bill?
Although it is not perfect, environmental groups and activists are very excited about the state’s progress with this bill. When asked about his opinion about this bill, Professor Tait Chirenje, an environmental studies professor at Stockton University, said, “This should not be seen as a victory, but rather a first step towards a world free of single-use plastic.”
Who opposes this bill?
Multiple groups oppose the legalization of this bill, including Republican lawmakers and business groups. Many people are afraid that business and manufacturing will hurt because they will have to adopt alternative practices, which will likely be more expensive.
This bill is controversial for many reasons. Click here to read another article from The New York Times about the conversation for and against plastic bag bans.