Is it government overreach or an important step to cut down on garbage thrown into landfills?

A New Jersey lawmaker is pushing a plan to regulate the size of cardboard containers that companies use to ship things to your house.

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Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex, has introduced a measure, A-2235, that would prevent retailers from shipping small items in oversized boxes.

Waste from shipping

“Just the amount of cardboard that is used to ship is just astronomical to start with, but what’s frustrating is that when things are received in our homes that can be put in an envelope, that they’re actually in a big box,” McKeon said.

The legislation specifies boxes used to ship an item from large online retailers and major companies cannot be more than twice as large as the item inside the box being shipped.

He said what convinced him that this problem needed to be addressed was after he ordered something for his granddaughter: a Baby On Board magnet that he said could have been shipping in an envelope but was sent "in a box about 50 times its size."

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McKeon said he understands while many large retailers are trying to reduce their carbon footprint some may have a problem with this kind of proposed regulation, but that is just not acceptable any longer because we have to cut the amount of material being thrown into landfills.

“If we cut down the packaging to no more than 50% the size of what’s in it, then clearly all of the plastic bubble wrap and everything else that goes into those packages will go away as well,” he said.

A waste of time?

Ray Cantor, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the bill is unnecessary and a distraction.

“We’re talking about very sophisticated retailers; they know what they’re doing. I don’t think the Legislature has the expertise to micromanage these very sophisticated and very important businesses,” he said.

“If it were possible for these retailers to limit their packaging I’m sure they would, it’s in their economic interest to use the minimal amount of packaging that is necessary.”

He also noted cardboard is recyclable.

McKeon said while it’s true cardboard can be recycled, “the best recycling is to have to avoid it because something wasn’t produced to begin with.”

The legislation, which has been referred to the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee for consideration, calls for companies to be fined between $250 to $500 for each offense.

Retail shipping giant Amazon declined to comment on this story last week.

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