Senate leadership plans to move ahead next week with a bill that would ban most Styrofoam, as well as plastic and paper bags — but remains skeptical that the measure will actually land on the governor’s desk before the current legislative session ends on Tuesday.
“What we’re going to do on Monday is pass what we thought was the consensus” bill, said Sen. Bob Smith, D-17th District, the measure’s main sponsor and chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “That consensus is falling apart.”
Smith added that he would reintroduce the bill next voting session, which starts Jan. 14. “In the interim, we’re going to urge towns in the state to pass plastic bag [bans]… We’re going to try and work with local environmental organizations,” he said.
The Murphy administration, likewise, was uncertain whether the bill could pass in the Assembly on Jan. 13.
“In lame duck, that’s a long time” between now and Monday, responded Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-18th District, the lower house sponsor, who chairs the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. “So now we have to see if we can get people to agree on the Assembly side.”
Proponents argue the law would make New Jersey a national trailblazer in environmental protection.
“The amount of plastic in our oceans will soon outweigh all of the fish in the ocean combined. Plastic bag bans have proven effective elsewhere,” Smith said in December.
Businesses contend that the ban would hurt their bottom line, increase costs to consumers and lead many establishments to shut down.
Under the latest version of Senate Bill 2776, introduced earlier this month, the state would implement the ban of Styrofoam, paper bags and plastic two years after the measures is signed — up from the one-year phase in proposed in December.
The measure still allows single-use plastic straws, but only at the request of the customer. It also does away with the requirement that large-scale grocery stores provide free reusable bags for two months, which were both part of the December version of the bill.
S2776 calls for a three-year program to provide reusable bags to lower-income residents, which would be allocated $500,000 a year, under the January changes.
A Senate vote is scheduled at the full floor session on Monday, but to date, nothing is scheduled in the Assembly.
“I think our bill is a good bill, it was a compromise,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, told reporters earlier on Thursday. “It’s time to move forward and that’s why we intend to pass it.”