TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy made his veto of a bill that would have imposed a fee for single use plastic bags official on Monday — which could set the stage for a complete ban.

The legislation would have placed a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags. The money would have been used for a Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund.

Environmental groups didn't think a fee went far enough toward their eventual ban and argued that a fee would not deter consumers from using plastic bags.

"This pre-emption in the fee bill would have blocked the grassroots movement going on in cities and towns working to ban plastics. This is why it is important that Gov. Murphy vetoed this bill because now towns can keep moving forward passing bans until we get a statewide bill," New Jersey Sierra Club executive director Jeff Tittel said in a statement.

At a hearing last Thursday in Toms River, a representative from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said businesses would prefer a statewide policy, not town-by-town regulations.

Tittel said Lambertville, Monmouth Beach, Teaneck, Longport, Long Beach, Ventor, Belmar, Point Pleasant Beach, Hoboken, Harvey Cedars, Stafford Township, Jersey City, Hoboken, Bradley Beach, Stone Harbor, Newark, Montclair, Edison, and Atlantic County have passed or are in the process of passing plastic bag bans.

The Sierra Club is supporting a bill introduced by state Sen. Bob Smith and state Sen. Linda Greenstein that would prohibit stores and restaurants from using styrofoam or polystyrene packaging, plastic bags or single-use plastic straws. Violators would be fined $5,000 a day.

The governor vetoed the bill without comment.

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