By: Savannah Scarborough, Writer / Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a historic bill on November 4 banning single-use plastic and paper bags, foamed plastic, and plastic straws in stores and at other businesses starting May 2020. With this ban in place, New Jersey has taken the lead in the nation’s battle against the harmful impacts of single-use plastic products.
The ban not only bans the use of single-use plastic and paper, but it also includes disposable polystyrene foam soda spoons, pre-packaged food by manufacturers with polystyrene foam, and any other foam foodservice product containing polystyrene. Additionally, portion cups of two ounces or fewer, which are commonly used for hot foods or lids, and meat and fish trays for an additional two years will be banned after May 2022.
“This law marks a monumental step forward in the fight against the fossil fuel industry and their production of disposable plastics, and a win for wildlife, clean rivers, and our ocean,” Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, said in a press release.
Even when recycled, plastic never entirely breaks down, instead shattering into much smaller particles. These crumbled particles are called microplastics, which end up in the water, eaten by wildlife, and inside our bodies (Lindwall). Marine animals such as whales and turtles and land animals like seabirds suffer severe consequences, including some that end up in seafood consumed by humans.
There is an alarming statistic that claims if single-use plastic and paper use does not subside drastically within the next decade, there will be one pound of plastic in the ocean for every three pounds of fish.
Gov. Murphy is focused on saving the environment and has concentrated his effort on encouraging reusable bags as an alternative to plastic. The bill’s one exception is that foodservice businesses can provide single-use plastic straws upon request starting in November 2021.
“If you go to the shore, you see plastic buried in the sand and floating in the ocean. There are an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastics currently in our oceans and about eight million metric tons are added each year,” Senator Linda Greenstein, vice-chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, said in a release.
Before Gov. Murphy signed this bill, similar efforts were proposed two years ago, but only included applying a fee on plastic, which was vetoed. The denial of the request exemplified Murphy’s priorities.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.