New Jersey’s proposed law would ban Styrofoam beverage and food containers, plastic bags and plastic straws from all retailers and restaurants in the state.“The goal here was not just to clean up litter but to deal with litter that is not biodegradable,” New Jersey Sen. Linda Greenstein, co-sponsor of S2776. Hawaii’s proposed Senate bill goes even further, not only banning Styrofoam containers but nearly all plastic from fast food and full-service restaurants, including drink bottles, utensils, straws, stirring sticks – even garbage bags. “Plastic is made from fossil fuels and it’s time for us as a society to move away from our dependence on petroleum and toward clean energy sources,” Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard told Fox News about SB 522.
Both proposals are currently making their way through their respective state senates. California and Hawaii are the only states that already ban single-use plastic bags. Several big cities, include Boston and Chicago, have similar bans. Advocates point to a 2008 United Nations report on Plastics Pollution that shows if current trends continue, the oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. However, that same report notes that more than 90 percent of the plastic pollution comes from Africa and Asia.
The plastic bag industry argues all these bans go way too far. A 2018 environmental litter survey, paid for by New Jersey, found that neither Styrofoam food containers, plastic bags or plastic straws were among the top 10 most littered items in the state. “We’ve described it as taking a sledgehammer to a mosquito,” said Matt Seaholm, director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance. “Plastic retail bags are the best options at checkout as long as they are disposed of properly.”
The industry argues legislators should work on enforcing current litter laws, and promote more recycling education. While plastic bags can be recycled they cannot be thrown out in curbside recycling bins. Instead, consumers have to bring their plastic bags back to their local stores which then dispose of them properly.
The problem is plastic bags clog and contaminate recycling machines, recyclers at New Jersey’s Burlington County Recycling Center told Fox News. Recyclers say a ban on Styrofoam, plastic straws, and plastic bags would make recycling more efficient. Straws are too small to recycle anyway, and it is not cost effective to properly recycle Styrofoam. Gabbard and Greenstein both say their proposals are works in progress.