NJ becomes first in the nation to ban paper bag use.
New Jersey’s state legislature voted to make the state first in the country to ban single-use paper bags in supermarkets as well as all single-use plastic bags in stores and restaurants. The move follows measures taken in eight other states, including California, New York and Vermont, which all have instituted single-use plastic bag bans.
“This bill is probably the strongest, most comprehensive bill in the nation dealing with plastics and packaging,” said Jeff Tittle, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It will go a long way in our battle with plastic pollution.”
However, opponents believe that the new law could impact businesses negatively and should be limited to plastic bags only, like in other states. Paper bags, they contend, are environmentally friendly. Tittle, on the other hand, believes the ban on paper will be the necessary for people to begin using recycled or other sustainable materials.
Heidi Brock, the president and chief executive of the American Forest and Paper Association, stated, “The New Jersey Legislature has undermined an environmentally responsible option for consumers. Furthermore, the ban on paper bags sends an alarming message in devaluing family wage jobs, which are often union labor, in addition to the indirect jobs supported by the paper and wood products industry in the state.”
A spokesperson for Governor Philip D. Murphy, Mahen Gunaratna, added, “The governor is proud to support the strongest bag ban in the nation. This bill will significantly reduce the harm that these products cause to our environment.”
Plastic bags are certainly the most damaging. They can take hundreds of years to decompose and currently respect 12 percent the U.S.’s plastic waste. Each state has taken its own approach to limiting the use of plastic bags. New York has totally eliminated the distribution of plastic bags, while, in California, stores must charge at least 10 cents for recycled paper bags. However, many of the restrictions have been more relaxed this year due to COVID-19. In New York, for example, the ban was originally slated to take effect on March 1 and now officials have indicated the targeted date is October 19.
The New Jersey bill says that the ban on plastic and paper bags “does not apply to bags used solely to wrap meat or fish, laundry bags or newspaper bags” and the New Jersey Food Council offered support of the measure.
“The ban on paper bags is critically important; they have just as significant of an environmental impact as plastic bags,” said Linda Doherty, president and chief executive of the council. “Without this ban, consumers would have simply moved to paper single-use bags, failing to address the underlying goal of reducing our reliance on single-use products.”
Dennis Hart, the executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, is among the parties who opposed it. He said, “New Jersey’s restaurants, God knows how many of them are going to survive the pandemic. Even if they do, they’re going to be in financially bad shape for a very long time. All this bill is going to do is add more burden of cost for a less quality product.”