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New Jersey lawmakers pass plastic, paper carryout bag ban
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New Jersey lawmakers pass plastic, paper carryout bag ban

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TRENTON — Single-use plastic and paper bags, as well as Styrofoam containers would be banned in New Jersey under legislation that passed the Democrat-led Legislature Thursday.

While some states impose a fee on paper bags, New Jersey’s lawmakers say the state would be the first to ban paper bags.

The prohibition would go into effect in 18 months under the bill, which goes next to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy has indicated he would sign a bill like the one lawmakers passed after vetoing a measure that merely added a charge to plastic bags.

The state Senate passed the measure earlier this year.

Eight states have banned plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Maine and Maryland have also passed bills banning Styrofoam. Hawaii has a de facto ban on paper bags with less than 40% recycled material, according to the conference.

Several South Jersey towns already have some kind of restrictions on bag use.

In January, Somers Point made it illegal for businesses to supply single-use bags. Customers must either bring their own bags or purchase reusable ones.

Other area towns that have banned stores from providing carryout bags include Avalon, Beach Haven, Brigantine, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Longport and Stafford Township.

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The New Jersey bill’s sponsors say it’s necessary to safeguard the environment.

“The health and safety of future generations depend on the choices we make today. Single-use plastic products are one of the single greatest threats to our oceans, environment and health,” Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin said.

So what should people and businesses use, if they can’t use paper and plastic?

The ban doesn’t apply to reusable carryout bags, defined in the measure as one made out of polypropylene, as well as those made out of nylon, cloth or hemp, or other washable fabrics. Bags with stitched handles are also exempt under the measure.

Republicans opposed the measure, saying it would wallop small businesses that have been badly hurt by the pandemic.

Industry groups opposed it, as well.

“This bill impacts manufacturing plants in New Jersey and New Jersey jobs during this terrible economic and pandemic time,” said Dennis Hart, the executive director of the Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers.

But environmental groups praised the bill.

“New Jersey Assembly voted to pass the strongest single-use ban on plastics in the country to prioritize our wildlife and our communities over endless plastic waste polluting our waterways,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Plastic and polystyrene items we use for 15 minutes should not end up in our environment and communities for endless generations. We urge Governor Murphy to sign this legislation as quickly as possible.”

Britta Forsberg-Wenzel, the executive director of Save Barnegat Bay, says the ban is very positive news for the Jersey Shore.

“People have been catching ‘bag fish’ for way too many years. We owe our legislators a debt of gratitude for standing up and being leaders in the nation. Many of our shore towns have already been proactive in adopting local ordinances and it is refreshing to see forward movement in Trenton on reducing single-use waste,” she said in a statement.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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