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

New Jersey businesses would be prohibited from giving their customers either paper or plastic single-use bags to carry their purchases in or polystyrene food containers for restaurant leftovers or takeout orders under legislation approved by the Senate Thursday.

The bill would also limit use of plastic straws. They would still be allowed, but could not be offered by the business, only provided at a customer’s request.

Businesses would get one warning, then face fines of up to $1,000 for a second offense and $5,000 for each violation after that. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), municipalities and counties certified under the “County Environmental Health Act” would have the authority to enforce the provisions of the bill if it becomes law.

Senate passage was expected. Senators approved a similar ban last session, and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Smith, who is also chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, said he would push for the same bill in the new one.

What happens in the Assembly is much less certain. Last session, the Senate passed its version of the bill, but it never received a vote in the Assembly.

According to an article in NJ.com, New Jersey would be the first state to ban both plastic and paper bags. New York’s plastic bag ban, which recently took effect, allows for paper bags but requires a 5-cent charge for them.

Complicating the issue is the fact that a number of municipalities and counties have enacted their own bans with different requirements, penalties and timetables.