Last Updated:April 16 @ 10:11 pm

New Jersey's bag control

By Angela Delli Santi

New Jersey Legislature

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A bill that takes an incentive-based approach to reducing the use of throw-away plastic and paper bags advanced in the New Jersey Legislature on Monday.

The measure approved by the Senate Environmental Committee requires retailers to give customers a 5-cent rebate for each reusable shopping bag they use and charge them 5 cents for each single-use bag they take. A similar law adopted Washington, D.C. nearly three years ago reduced the number ofplastic bags ending up in the nearby Anacostia River by 60 percent and caused three-quarters of residents to cut their use of disposable bags, according to a follow-up survey.

"By charging a nominal 5-cent fee for each paper and plastic bag, customers become incentivized to either forego a bag or bring a reusable bag rather than pay the 5-cent fee," said Keith Anderson, interim director of the district's Department of the Environment, who came to Trenton to testify about the bill.

Anderson said D.C.'s 2009 bag law requires 4,300 food and liquor stores to charge customers 5 cents per disposable plastic or paper bag, generating $2.1 million a year for river cleanup. Merchants keep up to 2 cents if they offer an environmentally friendly alternative. Random inspections are conducted by secret shoppers, he said, and violators can be reported via a tip line. Warnings are issued for first offenses but fines for continued noncompliance can reach $500. Most businesses are not troubled by the law, he said, because it's enabled them to order fewer bags, thereby reducing their bottom lines.

Sen. Bob Smith of Piscataway, who chairs the environmental panel and is sponsoring the bill, said New Jersey could look forward to $28 million in revenue from the law, which could be dedicated to helping regenerate Barnegat Bay. The bay, which has deteriorated because of overdevelopment and storm water runoff, was battered further by Hurricane Sandy.

Several other countries including China have banned plastic bags or instituted fees for single-use bags. In the United States, nearly 100 communities or cities have passed laws limiting throw-away bag use, led by San Francisco, which passed a disposable bag ban in 2007.

Zach McCue of Clean Ocean Action, a coalition of more than 130 environmental organizations in New Jersey and New York, said the manufacture of thin-film plastic bags consumes millions of trees and barrels of oil, takes up space in landfills for a long time and is harmful to marine life, especially birds and sea turtles that ingest the bags, or pieces of bags, or get entangled in them.

But a representative of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based group of bag manufacturers, said the ban amounts to a tax on businesses and would hurt some of the 30,000 who work in American bag-making factories.

He said bag laws have not been shown to reduce the amount of plastic bags recovered from waterways.

The bill was amended before the hearing to reduce the charge from 15 cents per non-biodegradable bag and remove a provision that would have required large retailers to reduce the number of plastic and paper bags they distribute by 75 percent.

The bill was approved by the Senate Environmental Committee in a 4-0 vote with one abstention. Three Democrats and one Republican voted for it. Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck of Red Bank abstained.

This was its first legislative hearing. A similar bill stalled in the prior legislative session.

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11 Comments

  1. clarkentComment by clarkent
    December 18, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    There is a website called “Ban The Bag”. It supports keeping plastic bags and explains why and how many jobs it supports in recycling. Recycling is the way to go if a bigger push is made, because banning or charging for them is not the answer.Check the above site out.

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    • stopspendingComment by stopspending
      December 18, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

      I am extremely fiscally conservative but worry about the environment. I do not want to leave an environmental disaster or a financial disaster for the next generation.
      I lived in another country that banned disposable bags and I learned, along with everyone else, to just bring my own bags – usually reusable. No big deal and it helps with waste and the environment. Those that say the answer is “recycling” are really out of touch. Reusing always beats recycling in everything we do.
      BTW, I drive a Prius and my family owns two.

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  2. thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
    December 18, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

    What more would you expect from a state where you have to register a BB gun and it’s BB’s

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    • opusComment by opus
      December 18, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

      ….comments such as yours …and that simple-minded attitude…will allow a democrat to return to the presidency time and time again. As a life-long republican, I’m ashamed to even be affiliated with persons that make such ridiculous contributions in a public forum.

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  3. gimmesometruthComment by gimmesometruth
    December 18, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    Yeah Right! The Petrochemical and Pharmaceutical ‘Gangsters’ are poisoning the waterways in Joyzee, and the ‘tools’ in Trenton are worried about shopping bags. We need to ‘recycle’ these dopes.

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  4. patrioticeagleComment by patrioticeagle
    December 18, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    With all the Real issues facing NJ I find it hard to accept our legislators are dealing with a non-issue. The cost of heat and light used while these people blabbered is already a tax issue. While the idea may be beneficial a stronger recycle push is the answer. Currently some food stores put a container outside to recycle bags – the container is Never big enough and you have to remember to bring the bags back.
    All NJ towns have a recycleing program – add the bags to the programs – problem solved. This idea of penalties and fees is misguided to be polite. Let the bloated plutocrats deal with Real issues like flooding, extremely high tax, towns laying off police & fire – these are issues.
    If they want to waste time and taxpayer money let them debate following Colorado, etc. and legalize pot – then they’ll have a revenue stream to work with. Once taxpayers are supported then worry about Non-issues.

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    • freelynComment by freelyn
      December 18, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

      I agree, this is a money grab plain and simple, just like the soda bottle deposit laws. In NYS at least they keep any deposits not claimed and make millions off it. Meanwhile, we are already required by law to recycle our plastic bottles, so exactly why do we need a 5 cents deposit. To MAKE MONEY and the environmental movement is a tool of the Statists.

      If this comes to New York State, I will buy my own plastic bags and bring them to the store. I might even give them for free to other shoppers just to protest this nonsense. We recycle all of our bags by reusing them or putting them into our recycling in NYS. The only time we throw a plastic bag into the trash is if it is filled with something completely foul.

      This is nonsense at the extreme and will inconvenience everyone. How about calling for biodegradable plastic in the bags, that makes more sense to me.

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  5. iowan52Comment by iowan52
    December 18, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

    What is really needed is Responsibility, humans are creatures of habits, one of the many bad habits we have is littering, among other things, teaching our children is a start, but a lot of adults need it too.

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    • BobinmsComment by Bobinms
      December 18, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

      You are so right iowan 52.

      People are slobs. There is a stretch of road where I keep the litter picked up. It’s really discouraging. I can pick it up and the next day it’ll be littered again. Overnight! I would add that bottles, especially plastic and beer bottles, should have a 5 cent deposit charged at the time of sale.

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  6. rzraickComment by rzraick
    December 18, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

    How about educating people and making a logical argument to people to act in their own self interests rather than trying to legislate and tax people in an effort to force them into behaviors.

    Most people will be happy to do the right thing. If plastic bags are harmful, then ban them. But don’t force things usung taxes and other coersive measures. This is just another tax proposal designed to enrich the politicians.

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  7. diana121Comment by diana121
    December 19, 2012 @ 8:45 am

    Shoprite has been giving 5 cent credit to any shopper who brings their own ” Green Bag”. I leave mine in the car and have them on hand whenever I shop. No big deal and make a few cents in the bargain.
    I am against banning plastic bags or charging for them. Recycle is the answer.
    P.S. I think this is trivial and the powers that be, could do better things with their time than worry about plastic bags.

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