Last week, New Jersey’s Senate Committee approved a bill that would impose the strongest statewide ban on everyday plastic products in the nation. The measure – S2776 – would ban plastic grocery store bags, Styrofoam food containers and plastic straws, all of which are often found in beach and riverfront cleanups across the state. It would also impose a 10-cent fee on paper bags at grocery stores.“It requires New Jersey citizens to change their lifestyle,” said Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, the sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Senate environment committee.

The bill was moved forward by 4-to-1 vote. It is the first legislative move on the bill. It will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee and eventually to Senate President Steve Sweeney for consideration for a full house vote. It still needs to be heard in the Assembly. The bill was hailed by environmentalists during a three-hour hearing Thursday who say it will significantly reduce plastic pollution in New Jersey.

Plastics have made up the vast majority of trash picked up each year from New Jersey’s beaches by the advocacy group Clean Ocean Action. A 2016 report by NY/NJ Baykeeper estimated that about 165 million pieces of plastic float at any one time from Sandy Hook to the Tappan Zee Bridge along with several other waterways that make up the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary.

Business groups oppose the bill, saying it will hurt their members and consumers. Dennis Hart of the Chemical Council of New Jersey said the bill would especially hurt restaurateurs, who would eventually have to pay more for plastic alternatives.

The move on Thursday comes a month after Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill that would have placed a 5-cent fee on plastic grocery store bags, signaling his support for an outright ban. More than a dozen municipalities, including Jersey City and Hoboken have passed local plastic bag bans this year that will soon go into effect despite heavy lobbying efforts against a statewide ban.

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