The latest version of a bill that aims to curb the use of single-use plastics would ban plastic bags one year after it is signed, and according to a draft obtained by NJBIZ, would also include paper bags, Styrofoam and plastic straws.
Lawmakers are expected to take up Senate Bill 2776 during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting Thursday morning.
The question to ban or curtail the use of polystyrene and single-use plastics has been strongly debated by environmentalists and business groups — even though very few debate the harm both have on the environment.
Activists argue the law would make New Jersey a national trailblazer in environmental protection. Businesses worry the ban would hurt their bottom line, pass more costs onto consumers and lead many to shutter.
Sen. Bob Smith, D-17th District, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, previously told NJBIZ he would like to see the measure become law before the lame duck session ends on Jan. 13, 2020.
Gov. Phil Murphy previously shot down a narrower version of the plastic bag and Styrofoam restrictions, which would have enacted a 5 cent fee on plastic bags.
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S2776 would prohibit businesses from selling or giving out plastic bags a year after its enactment, followed by paper bags the next year. Additionally, a year after the bill is signed, businesses would only be allowed to give out plastic straws at the request of the customer.
The measure also prohibits businesses from offering food in a polyesterine or Styrofoam containers two years after the bill is signed. However, the measure offers a three-year exemption on the Styrofoam ban, which could address concerns from businesses regarding its commonplace usage in food packaging and safety.
Some of the exemptions call for Styrofoam to be allowed for meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, portion cups of up to two ounces, and food products that are pre-packaged by the manufacturer with Styrofoam.
Moreover, business owners can ask for an exemption if they make less than $500,000 in gross annual income and if there is no commercially viable alternative for them to Styrofoam.
Over the two years following the bill’s signing, S2776 would replace any restrictions that municipal or county governments have enacted on paper bags, straws, plastic bags, Styrofoam and any other single-use plastics.
With the bill having stalled in the state Legislature, and in the absence of statewide legislation, dozens of such restrictions have popped up across the state.