By: Follow South Jersey Staff
SOUTH JERSEY – After a year since New Jersey implemented a law restricting single-use plastic bags and straws, and limited use of other products including paper carryout bags and polystyrene foam food containers, Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette said that there has been a significant decrease in the use of these products resulting in reductions of litter.
“New Jersey’s initiative to step up and say no to continued plastics pollution in our communities and waterways is worthy of celebration because we have quickly seen the positive effects of this law,” Commissioner LaTourette said in a press release from NJDEP. “Removing single-use plastics, paper bags and foam food containers from our waste stream keeps our communities clean and protects aquatic and marine life as well as wildlife. Our next steps will be to continue educating the public about how and why these restrictions have a lasting difference on environmental protection.”
Governor Murphy signed the law in 2020 and New Jersey implemented it effective May 4, 2022. The law prevents grocery stores and retail establishments from providing single-use plastic bags to customers, and further restricts grocery stores 2,500 square feet or larger from providing single-use paper bags. Similarly, polystyrene foam food takeout containers and other polystyrene food service products also may no longer be provided to customers, and single-use plastic straws may only be provided upon a customer’s request.
“The reduction in the use of single-use plastics puts New Jersey at the forefront of efforts to protect our environment and builds on our commitment to public health through action,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli stated. “Microplastics have the potential of causing cancer and other negative health effects on people. That’s a steep price to pay. Reducing plastics and microplastics leads to healthier New Jerseyans and a more sustainable future.”
Among key metrics measured during the past year:
- The New Jersey Food Council estimates that 5.5 billion single-use plastic bags and 110 million single-use paper bags were eliminated from entering the waste stream and environment by its 2,000 grocery store members between May and December 2022;
- There has been a more than 37% decrease in single-use plastics in each of three categories affected by the law, including single-use plastic bags, foam food containers and straws found as litter along the Jersey shore.
- There has been a reduction in the number of plastic straws purchased by convenience stores for distribution to customers, from 17 million to 2 million per month.
“A year ago, we enacted limits on single-use plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam in favor of reusable alternatives,” Senator Linda Greenstein said. “A year later, we celebrate the continued success of this legislation. With this law, New Jersey has curbed the use of billions of plastic bags, mitigating the harsh environmental impacts associated with their use.”
“Before the single use plastics law was enacted, it was commonplace to see plastic bags blowing around parking lots, getting tangled in trees and littering our precious waterways,” JoAnn Gemenden, Executive Director of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council, said. “This spring, as clean communities coordinators are sponsoring numerous litter clean-up initiatives across New Jersey, we are astounded by the stark decrease in the amount of single-use bags found. There is no doubt this law is working, and I must congratulate New Jersey’s businesses and consumers for making this success possible. It is amazing the effect we can have on New Jersey’s environment when we all work together toward a common goal.”
The Plastics Advisory Council is comprised of 16 Governor-appointed members representing the plastics and recycling industry, the academic community, environmental groups, as well as state and local government.
“When the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) was legislatively assigned the responsibility of educating businesses about how to comply with the statewide ban on single-use plastic carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products, the agency launched a campaign to share information through digital content and informative webinars,” NJBAC Executive Director Melanie Willoughby said. “Sharing information about the new policy benefited everyone. The NJBAC strengthened relationships with the statewide business community, business owners accessed accurate and essential information about the bag ban, and billions of bags were kept out of the waste stream.”
The DEP and its partner agencies will continue to focus on educating the public about the value and importance of reducing use of and reliance on plastic products, as well as overall waste reduction, to enhance environmental stewardship.
To view the report, visit https://dep.nj.gov/wp-content/uploads/pac-first-year-report-2023.pdf.
For more information about donating reusable bags, visit https://cfbnj.org/donate-reusable-shopping-bags/.
Learn more about the New Jersey Clean Communities Council at www.njclean.org/.
Learn more about the New Jersey Business Action Council at https://nj.gov/state/bac/.
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