Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license
In early November of 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that bans single-use paper and plastic bags for the entire Garden State. This ban will affect all stores and food service businesses and is set to commence in May, 2022.
To the delight of environmentally-conscious individuals, the focus of this ban will be on using reusable bags and other sustainable items in place of single-use materials. According to nj.gov, these products will be exempt two years after May 2022: disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons, portion cups of two ounces or less, meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, any food product that is prepackaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product, and any other polystyrene foam that is deemed necessary by the Department of Environmental Protection.
Faced with these changes, food service businesses will only be permitted to supply single-use straws upon request; this will start in November 2021.
Environmental groups have praised Governor Murphy’s actions, noting his efforts have made New Jersey a national leader in environmental protection, as they take action in fighting towards a plastic-free future. Senator Linda Greenstein, vice-chair of the Senate Environmental and Energy Committee, has previously noted that there is currently an estimated 150 metric tons of plastic in our oceans. An additional eight million metric tons are added each year.
Although the ban passed by the Governor will not resolve the problem immediately, it is a major step in the right direction.
“We want to thank the Governor for all he did signing this bill and vetoing the weaker bill. Now we have the strongest plastic ban in the nation,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
New Jersey is not the first state to pass such legislation; according to ncsl.org in the summer of 2014, California, the third largest state in the nation, became the first state to impose a ban on single-use plastic bags, but in that instance, it was only at large retail stores.
Now here we are, six years later, with an even stronger plan, proving the old adage that there is always room for improvement. We can do better. We will do better. And small but powerful New Jersey will help lead the way.