Pro-environment legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, James Kennedy, and John McKeon that would curb the use of certain types of carryout bags and containers to protect our environmental future was approved 48-24-7 on Thursday by the full Assembly.
“The health and safety of future generations depend on the choices we make today. Single-use plastic products are one of the single greatest threats to our oceans, environment, and health,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Many of our municipalities have already taken steps to limit the use of carryout bags and containers; now, it’s time for the State to act. This legislation, if enacted, would be the strongest law implemented in the nation to curb the use of these products and maintain New Jersey’s stance as a leader in environmental protection.”
The bill (A-1978) would implement a prohibition on the provision or sale of single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, and polystyrene foam foodservice products, and a limitation on the provision of single-use plastic straws. It would phase in these restrictions over time and would preempt municipal and county regulations.
“Single-use carryout products fill up landfills and find their way into our oceans,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “There are more sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternatives that many are already using in place of these products. This legislation aims to encourage all of us to act together to protect New Jersey’s environmental future.”
“Nearly 40 towns in New Jersey have banned plastic bags, and many others have passed ordinances addressing their use,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “This legislation supports community efforts to reduce litter and protect their environments. The reality is: disposable plastics are causing damage to our environment. Anything we can do to curb its effects will help us better protect our oceans, our communities, our health, and to fight climate change.”
DEP would have the authority to adopt any rules and regulations necessary to effectuate this bill. Any person or entity that violates a provision of this bill, or any regulation adopted under the bill, would be subject to a warning for the first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense, and up to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense, to be collected in a civil action by a summary proceeding under the “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999,” or in any case before a court where injunctive relief has been requested.
The bill would also establish a “Plastics Advisory Council” within DEP to monitor the implementation of this bill and evaluate its effectiveness in reducing single-use plastics and plastic waste. One year after the bill’s effective date, and each year thereafter, the Council would submit a written report evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of the bill, and making any recommendations for legislative or administrative action.
Under the bill, the Council would also study the environmental and public health impacts of single-use plastics and micro-plastics, healthy and environmentally-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics, strategies, and policies to increase the recyclability of plastics, the technological feasibility of increasing recycled content of consumer plastics, and ways to enhance the development and expansion of markets of post-consumer recycled plastic.