To: Members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee
My name is Raymond Cantor and I am Vice President of Government Affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the nation’s largest statewide business association with over 1 million jobs.
New Jersey, as we all know, is a high-cost state, replete with multiple layers of government and regulatory requirements. It is a challenge to do business in this state, especially if you are in retail. Retail businesses in New Jersey need to address two concerns on a daily basis – they need to keep their costs down and they need to meet the needs of their customers. Brick and mortar retail establishments are struggling. They have competition from online merchants, there are shifting consumer preferences, and their margins are low, especially for grocery stores and food service businesses.
The proposed committee substitute makes it harder for these businesses to earn a fair profit, provide a good customer experience, and stay in business.
The problem of plastics in our oceans is a serious one and NJBIA is willing to work with the Legislature to fashion appropriate and effective solutions. Unfortunately, this bill would do more to harm business and not enough to address the real causes of plastic pollution in our oceans.
We would ask that this Committee consider two amendments that would help lower costs and allow our businesses to meet customer needs.
First, the definition of “reusable carryout bag” should be amended to delete the requirement for stitched handles and to allow plastic bags to be used if they have sufficient thickness to be used multiple times. There are now industry standards and experiences in other states on which this bill can be modeled. Allowing multiple use plastic bags, without an artificial requirement for stitched handles, would meet the intent of the bill to eliminate single-use bags while saving businesses money and allowing them to better meet customer needs.
We also believe that the ban on polystyrene foam food service products should be deleted and instead we should attempt to improve ways to recycle those products. There have been successful polystyrene recycling projects and they should be given a chance to develop. The need for polystyrene for multiple uses is not disputed nor are there adequate or affordable substitutes at this time. There are real health safety concerns for consumers if this bill passes in its current form. We should not pass legislation with a delayed effective date with the hope that adequate substitutes will be found. At the very least, the exemptions currently provided in the bill should not lapse. Rather a ban on polystyrene should only be put in place once the DEP demonstrates that adequate and affordable replacement products are readily available and that recycling of polystyrene is not practicable.
In conclusion, we ask this committee to amend the bill to allow reusable plastic bags as has been done in other states. We also ask that polystyrene not be banned at this time as we look for recycling options and potential cost effective replacements.