A long-debated bill to adopt what advocates describe as the nation’s most comprehensive ban of single-use carryout plastic and paper bags, as well as other plastics, cleared a legislative committee. The measure, a top legislative priority for most New Jersey environmental organizations for the past few years, cleared the Senate in early March, but stalled when the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the state less than two weeks later. The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the measure with amendments, sending it along for a full vote. The Senate would also need to approve this version before it could be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
The legislation initially was hard-fought by many business interests. But the wide support for banning single-use plastic bags both across the country and among many communities has diminished some opposition partly due to the proliferation of communities adopting their own, often different, kinds of bans. Those opponents would prefer a single statewide law, rather than a mishmash of local laws.
The New Jersey Food Council, a foe of earlier versions of the bill, now backs a total ban on both single-use plastic and paper bags, said Linda Doherty, president and CEO, although the group will seek a small technical amendment by the committee. The amendment is expected to be adopted, a change that will mean the bill, if approved by the Assembly, will have to go back to the Senate for concurrence.
In New Jersey, more than 130 municipalities have adopted bans, according to Jennifer Coffey, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. At least eight states, beginning with California in 2014, have adopted statewide bans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “We think this is the right move at the right time,’’ Coffey said, “It demonstrates people understand this issue and they want action from their legislators.’’