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Lawmakers just voted to ban plastic and paper bags in N.J.

ban paper bags

Single-use bags, both paper and plastic, are again close to being banned in New Jersey.

The state Senate on Thursday voted 22-14 on a bill (S864) that would ban single-use bags and Styrofoam, or polystyrene foam, takeout containers in the Garden State.

It would take effect 18 months after receiving the governor’s signature, and make straws available only upon request after one year.

If the current bill became law, New Jersey would become the first state to ban both plastic and paper bags.

But none of that happens unless the state Assembly passes its own version of the bill and the governor signs it.

Kevin McArdle, a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, said Thursday that Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, is “still is discussions with the sponsors and stakeholders.”

Last month, Coughlin said the Legislature’s lower house is working on a version of the bill but still questions whether bans on paper and plastic should be staggered to take effect separately. He also said they have debated whether the 18-month enactment timeline is too short, or too long.

“As we look at the best ways to stick up for the planet, I think the reusable bags are certainly the way to go,” Coughlin said during a segment of “Speak to the Speaker” on WCTC 1450-AM on Feb. 14.

Advocates have become frustrated with delays to pass the measure, which passed the Senate in the legislative session that ended in January but stalled in the Assembly.

“Every day of delay means that more plastics are getting into our environment and into us. This is the most comprehensive plastic bill in the nation because it bans paper bags as well as single-use plastic bags,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a statement. “The Assembly must push this bill through quickly, because the longer we delay the worse our plastic problem gets.”

More than 30 municipalities and two counties have already enacted bans on plastic bags, straws and polystyrene foam containers. Coughlin said on his radio show those municipal bans, which are not identical, can create confusion across borders for both business owners and shoppers.

“While I commend them for doing that, and for taking that action, the challenge with that is that they’re not mirror images,” the speaker said.


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