New Jersey has been at the forefront of progressive action recently with a new bill that protects poor communities from pollution and a law that helps undocumented workers find jobs. Now, the state is on the verge of passing the country’s most progressive single-use plastic ban that would outlaw plastic bags from stores and restaurants as well as polystyrene foam containers.
Once signed into law by Governor Philip Murphy, the ban would go into effect in 18 months, giving businesses the time to adapt to the new policies. In addition to plastic bags and containers, the bill also bans paper bags from grocery stores and makes plastic straws available only upon request at restaurants. The law makes exceptions on paper bags for produce, meat, and prescription drugs. The plastic straw exception was included to accommodate those who require a straw for medical reasons.
The ban on paper bags may seem confusing but was included to get grocery stores on board with the bill. Without a dual bag ban, consumers tend to simply switch to more expensive paper bags, costing grocery stores more money and failing to achieve the ultimate goal of zero-waste shopping.
Plastic bags make up 12 percent of US plastic pollution, so bills like this are important for large-scale single-use plastics reduction. Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Judith Enck praised the bill in a statement, saying, “This is the single most comprehensive plastics and paper reduction bill in the nation.”