Fate of bill to ban plastic and paper bags in New Jersey remains uncertain

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A bill to ban plastic and paper bags in the Garden State could be in trouble in the Legislature.

At a State House hearing last week, advocates and legislators could not agree on how wide the bag ban should be.

“Every time we start to make some progress, someone stands up and says, ‘We haven't done enough,’” said Organic Diversion CEO Rocco D’Antonio at that hearing.

As it stands, both paper and plastic bags would be banned in 18 months, along with Styrofoam food containers. But after that hearing, a New Jersey environmentalist says that he is now concerned about the bill's fate.

“I think there's trouble…I think that there are different parts of government looking at the bill differently,” says Jeff Tittle with the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Some of the disputes about the bill include how long the phase-out period should be, along with whether to allow thick plastic bags that proponents say are reusable.

RELATED: Who needs bags? Bayonne residents take plastic bag ban in stride 
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“Thicker plastic still means more plastic and what we found in the places in the country where they've gone to those thicker, so-called reusable bags, you find them in the streams. You find them in the parking lots, you find them in the garbage. They don't really get reused,” Tittle says.

The original bill focused on getting rid of plastic bags, but over time, the bill grew to include paper bags. Tittle says that maybe the Legislature should go back to the original bill. He says that getting rid of plastic is critical to saving the environment.

“They're filling up our landfills. They're clogging our storm drains causing flooding. They're breaking up into microparticles, getting into our drinking water [and] into us,” Tittle says.

The Legislature passed a bill in 2018 that would have put a five-cent fee on each paper or plastic bag shoppers used. But Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed the legislation. In the meantime, local municipalities stepped in.

“One of the things we don't want is to have 565 different ordinances. We need to have one statewide program. I think it works much better that way,” Tittle says.

A plastic and paper bag ban did pass the state Senate in January, but was not voted on by the Assembly.

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