November 11, 2020

New Law Banning Plastic Bags Will be Strongest in the Nation

By Anne Levin

Gov. Phil Murphy’s November 4 legislation banning single-use plastic and paper bags in New Jersey, effective in May 2022, was welcome news to local environmentalists, who have been working toward such a measure for years.

The newly adopted Plastic Pollution Reduction Act also includes polystyrene food containers, plastic straws, and other materials that end up clogging waterways. It is considered to be one of the toughest plastics legislations in the country.

“Our community has been interested in this for a long time,” said Sophie Glovier, chairman of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC). “Litter and plastic are a big problem in town. And we see how many plastic bags are in our waterways.”

It is the fact that the legislation is statewide that makes it so significant. “We are really fortunate now that the state has acted,” Glovier said. “There were so many towns passing different bans themselves, trying to move the issue forward. The fact that it’s at the state level makes it easier for all of us.”

The PEC recommended to Princeton Council last year that it should endorse pending state legislation banning the single-use plastic bags, paper bags, and polystyrene and Styrofoam takeout food containers. New Jersey towns that have banned single-use plastic bags include Jersey City, Hoboken, Teaneck, Point Pleasant Beach, Paramus, Glen Rock, Belmar, and Lambertville.

The PEC is hoping to hold some educational programming with Lambertville and other municipalities that have enacted ordinances. “The 18-month period before this goes into effect is really good,” said Glovier. “We are committed to working with local businesses to help with the transition. We will work hard to educate the community, and will be collaborating to pull together resources for businesses where they can source reusable bags and things they’ll need as alternatives.”

There are some exclusions to the state legislation. They include bags used solely for uncooked meat, fish, or poultry; for loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, grains, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers, or small hardware; bags used solely to contain live animals such as fish; and bags used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order, including soup or hot food.

Also laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bags; newspaper bags; those containing prescription drugs; disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam spoons for thick drinks; small cups of two ounces or less for hot foods; trays for raw meat, poultry, or fish commonly found at supermarkets; and any food pre-packaged in polystyrene by the manufacturer, such as ramen noodles.

“I think everybody realizes that single-use plastic is a big problem, impacting not only the environment but our health as well,” said Glovier. “There are microplastics found in our water. As long as we can work together to make the transition easy, I think it will be okay. The fact that this is at the state level makes such as difference.”