TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed legislation prohibiting single-use plastic and paper bags and plastic foam containers. The ban goes into effect in May 2022, with New Jersey joining eight states to ban plastic bags. While some states impose a fee on paper bags and Hawaii has a de facto ban on bags with less than 40% recycled material, New Jersey lawmakers say it’s the first state with a paper bag ban.

The law covers the kinds of carryout bags customers get from restaurants that do takeout and groceries and other stores. The ban doesn’t apply to reusable carryout bags, defined in the measure as those made out of polypropylene – like the large blue bags Ikea has – or nylon, cloth, hemp and other washable fabrics. Bags with stitched handles are also exempt under the measure.

The prohibition stems from environmental concerns.

“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans,” Murphy said in an emailed statement. “We are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

The ban covers both plastic and paper single-use bags and polystyrene containers, but some products are exempt until 2024, including long-handled polystyrene spoons, cups of two ounces or less, meat and fish trays, any food product pre-packaged by a manufacturer, and any other foam food service item deemed necessary by state regulators.

Single-use plastic straws will be available only upon request starting November 2021.

Environmental groups praised the measure. The New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel called it a “major environmental victory.”

“It’s a good day for marine critters and the power of the people,” Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said in a statement.

Republicans opposed the measure, saying it would wallop small businesses that have been badly hurt by the pandemic, as did industry groups. Dennis Hart, the executive director of the Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers, has said the measure would hurt manufacturing plants and damage economic prospects

 

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.

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