NJBIA's Public Policy Forum: The Road to Recovery REGISTER

Good Morning Chairman Smith, Chairwoman Pinkin and Members of the Committees:

My name is Chrissy Buteas, Chief Government Affairs Officer of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. On behalf of our member companies that provide more than 1 million jobs in the state and make New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) the largest statewide business association in the country, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on single-use plastics and plastic waste, and what steps that New Jersey can take to create State-wide policies that make sense for all of our nine million citizens.

NJBIA and our members share in society’s responsibilities to manage waste products and its impact on the health of our environment.  At the same time, we know that we must advocate for those policies that will sustain and grow our economy. We would like to, briefly, highlight a number points for your consideration as you formulate policy positions dealing with the use and disposal of plastic materials.It is important to recognize that any discussion regarding “plastics” should observe they are not just a New Jersey problem, nor an American issue, but a global challenge.In 2015, researchers ranked the largest offenders of waste mismanagement on our planet. It was discovered that China and Indonesia, together, generated nearly one-third of all plastic bags, bottles and other debris that is washed into the Earth’s oceans. By comparison, the United States is responsible for 0.28 metric tons of plastic waste per year (MMT/YR) versus China alone @ 8.82 MMT/YR. While every nation must do its fair share in cleaning up this world-wide problem we cannot expect the good people of our state to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the fiscal responsibility for the world’s bad actors.

Protecting and Creating Jobs

New Jersey’s plastics industry directly employs more than 18,000 employees in the Garden State.1

In fact, New Jersey ranks 17th in the country in terms of plastics industry employment. Any effort to limit plastics consumption would decrease the need for plastics manufacturing and could jeopardize these jobs.

The impact on jobs if single-use plastics were banned would go beyond manufacturing. The plastics industry employs New Jersey workers throughout the entire supply chain. This includes manufacturing, but also transportation, packaging, and other areas.

Jobs in construction, health care, food services, and others are also dependent on the plastics industry. There are approximately 997,300 New Jersey jobs that could be indirectly impacted by any measures that create adverse conditions for the state’s plastics industry.

The Facts

To date, the state has not released any kind of analysis studying the impact of plastics as it relates to litter or other environmental concerns. We want to be sure that any measure impacting so many jobs will actually have the desired effect.

Secondly, we know, based on a life-cycle analysis conducted in 2011 by the UK Environment Agency, that single-use plastics can actually have a lower carbon footprint than proposed alternatives made from longer lasting materials, which require more resources in their production and create far greater environmental impacts.”2

If we take plastic bags as an example, a standard paper bag has to be used four times in order to offset the environmental impact of its production and transportation when compared to a single-use plastic bag.

Similarly, a heavy-duty reusable plastic bag has to be used five times, a polypropylene bag 14, and a cotton reusable bag has to be used roughly 173 times.3

“Substituting the majority of plastic used in the consumer goods sector with a mix of alternative materials that provide the same function, would increase environmental costs by a factor of four to over US $533 billion in 2015. This equates to an additional $13,887 in environmental costs created per million dollars of consumer goods sector revenue (total $18,773 per million) compared to business as usual plastic use,” according to the American Chemistry Council.4

In 2012, German researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ concluded that the world’s top ten plastic load carrying river systems likely accounted for 90% of the global plastic input into the sea.5  Of these ten, eight were in Asia, and two were in Africa. 

Moving Forward

We must define with is the ultimate goal of any policy to limit the use of plastics.  It is important to know the specific matter that needs to be addressed before embarking on policy. The EPA reports that in 2015 plastics represented 13.1% of municipal solid waste (MSW).6  Of that, just 9.1% of plastics were recycled.

In 2016, the plastic bottle recycling rate was 29.7%, and actually represented a 1.4 percentage point decrease from the prior year.7 

In total, EPA reported that plastics were among the least recycled MSW materials in 2015. 4.6% of all recycled materials were plastics, compared to 66.9% which were paper and cardboard, and 12.1% which were metals.8  Conversely, plastics represented the highest portion of landfilled MSW, making up 18.9% of all MSW materials that ended up in a landfill.

This means that there is considerable room for improvement by way of public education to reduce the amount of plastics from our state that ends up in landfills.

Increased investment in reuse of items and in recycling infrastructure could achieve the same environmental goals as other measures without unnecessarily harming the industry and its employees. And as I’ve pointed out, we have reason to believe these methods would actually benefit our fight against climate change more than many alternatives.

In conclusion, any State policy change on plastics should be phased in and should not be done in a piecemeal approach – municipality by municipality. As previously stated, NJBIA believes we need a statewide policy that addresses these issues in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner, one that recognizes the need and desire for a clean environment and a healthy, growing economy.

Thank you again for inviting me today, and for consideration of our comments.


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