New NJ Law Regarding Plastic Straws is Now in Effect
To the Editor:
These days it can seem like there is not much to be excited about. But, here is some very good news: N.J.’s new Plastic Pollution Reduction Act to help control the mountains of plastic that (after food waste) dominate our landfills and cause such destruction in our oceans: over 1 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean (UNESCO Facts and Figures on Marine Pollution). A suite of new laws to cope with plastic waste is being rolled out in N.J. over time. The first of these to take effect is the law regarding plastic straws.
N.J.’s new law for plastic straws took effect November 4, 2021. As of the 4th, restaurants and other food service businesses may give plastic straws to customers only upon request. Food service businesses include all restaurants, convenience stores, and fast-food businesses. The plastic straw law does include penalties for non-compliance. Violators are subject to a warning for the first offense, may be fined up to $1,000 per day for the second offense, and up to $5,000 per day for the third and subsequent offense.
This is real progress. Recycling only gets us so far, and that’s not very far at all. For example, did you know that that the Delaware River dumps more than about 280,000 pounds of plastic into the ocean every year? (Science Advances, Vol. 7, Issue 18, 2021) Scientists estimate that we’re adding 80 million tons of plastic to our oceans each year. That’s about five grocery bags full of plastic waste on every foot of every shoreline around the world (Stanford Earth Matters magazine, 2018).
So, what happens now when you get that plastic straw with your meal? Well, you shouldn’t, but it will likely take some time for all of us to make this adjustment. You can help by politely declining plastic straws you may receive and reminding businesses of the new law. Of course, you can also help by not purchasing packaged plastic straws that you will still be able to find on grocery store shelves and on products like juice boxes. Teach your kids, friends, and neighbors to avoid them too, and why.
What parts of the N.J. plastic laws are coming next? Starting May 4, 2022, a ban on Styrofoam containers like clamshell takeout boxes and a ban on plastic and paper bags takes effect. The Styrofoam ban states that no person or food service business can sell Styrofoam food service products or any food in a Styrofoam container. The plastic and paper bag law prohibits all stores, food service businesses, and grocery stores from selling or providing single use plastic carryout bags.
If you’re looking for additional information about N.J.’s new Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, N.J’.s government site is very helpful, at nj.gov/dep/plastic-ban-law.
This is something to be thankful for!
Commissioner, Princeton Environmental Commission
Tammy L. Sands
Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission