Proposed Senate Bill 2515 would create more rigid recycling requirements for glass and plastic containers like drink bottles, as well as paper and plastic bags, and plastic trash bags. It also bans the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging, also known as packing peanuts.
“Over the past few years, other countries such as China have decided to no longer buy most plastic waste content,” reads a joint Monday statement from several sponsors from the Assembly Democrats’ Caucus. “New Jersey has an opportunity to enhance our market for plastics, and this bill will allow us to be at the forefront of a transitioning recycling industry.”
The legislation was approved by a 48-26 vote in the state Assembly on Monday with three abstentions, and a 22-15 vote in the state Senate, sending it to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk where he has until Jan. 18 to approve the measure or pocket veto it.
Under the bill, manufacturers would have to use more “post consumer recycled content” in the new goods they produce – that is, different recyclable products that consumers have used and disposed of.
The measure is modeled after a similar law enacted in California in 2020.
It would establish benchmarks for how much of a manufacturer’s product needs to come from post-consumer recycled content, starting with 10% a year, and over the next several years increasing to 50%.
Environmental groups are widely supportive of the measure. A joint statement released Jan. 6 from seven different organizations said the law would “go a long way in strengthening the market for recyclables and reducing reliance on new fossil fuel derived plastics.”
Groups like the New Jersey Business & Industry Association were more wary, however, contending that the technology simply does not exist for businesses to produce that many of their goods through recycled content.
“[M]ost of the concerns we have heard surround the mandated content levels and the time frames to meet them. They are not realistic,” NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor told lawmakers in 2020.
And he warned that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection does not have the capacity to enforce the program for thousands of companies and the waivers that they would seek under the new law.
Murphy was generally supportive of a bill that landed on his desk in September 2020, which he signed into law in November of that year, banning the sale and distribution of Styrofoam containers, paper and single-use plastic bags, and plastic straws.
Starting this May, businesses such as restaurants, convenience stores, food trucks, movie theaters and larger grocery stores are banned from giving out those items.
Exemptions apply to bags used for wrapping raw meat; Styrofoam butcher trays; bags used for loose produce; those that hold fish and insects from pet stores; and bags for prescription drugs, newspapers and dry-cleaning.
The aim of that particular measure was to clamp down on pollution from Styrofoam and single-use plastics, and promote the adoption of reusable alternatives.
“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 when signing the measure.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]