Senate Budget Committee votes in favor of plastic bag ban

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The Senate's Budget Committee passed a new bill that looks to ban plastic bags in one year and paper bags and Styrofoam containers in two years. 

The proposal was first brought up two years ago and has continued to gain traction. 

A large crowd came to see the vote at the State House committee room. Most people there said they are against the proposal. 

However, environmental advocates say the reduction of plastic use is vital. 

Jeff Tittel, of New Jersey Sierra Club, says, “Fifty towns in New Jersey have passed some kind of ordinance either banning or regulating plastics. But the problem is many of the people who want to just keep using plastics are the ones that just throwing them on the streets or throwing them into the garbage and not trying to use them for other purposes. And that's why you need the state to step in." 

Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill last year that would have put a 5-cent tax on plastic bags. 

This new bill still needs to be passed by the full Senate and the full Assembly before it goes to Gov. Murphy's desk for his signature or veto. 

This proposal would fine businesses that use plastic bags $500. For the second offense, the fine would raise to $1,000. 

There would be exceptions to the ban. Plastic straws and polystyrene soda spoons used for thick drinks would not be banned. Portion cups of 2 ounces or less for hot liquids or foods requiring lids would not be affected. 

Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance would also be in the clear. 

Middletown Mayor Tony Perry says his town just purchased a machine that recycles Styrofoam and turns it into replacement for wood products. He says the ban would counteract this device's progress. 

He says, "So are we going to ban this product now that the free market has finally found a way for us to reuse and recycle, so that we can cut down more trees to continue the way we've been creating picture frames and molding and other materials? Why ban this product?" 

According to Sen. Bob Smith, one of the proposal's sponsors, there would be a two-month period where grocery stores can offer free plastic bags. This way, people can stock up on them before the total ban. 

If passed by the Senate and Assembly, the changes would be done in phases.

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