TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed one of the nation's toughest bans on single-use plastic and paper bags and disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam. The ban goes into effect May 2022.

The first part of the law takes effect next November when restaurants will no longer be able to provide single-use plastic straws unless requested by a customer.

“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans,” Murphy said in a written statement. “With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

Some products, however, will be allowed for another two years after May 2022:

  • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
  • Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
  • Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance;
  • Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product
  • Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by Department of Environmental Protection.

The Legislature approved the bill on Sept. 24. Some Republican lawmakers warned at the time of the vote that the rules would hurt retailers as well as paper-bag manufacturers.

“Including paper in this bill is an aberration, and it’s an overreach, and it shouldn’t be done,” said Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris.

“I really believe that the bill has a lot of good to it. I think the timing of it is just terrible,” said Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Monmouth, who cited the pandemic’s impact on restaurants. "So this is going to be our reward to them for just enduring since March probably the worst business environment that they’ve seen. If any of these folks come back, it’s going to be remarkable. A lot of them won’t.”

Supporters of the measure used the increase use of plastic bags during the pandemic to show why they believe the law is needed.

"We're seeing this tidal wave of disposable single-use plastics, which is exactly what we're trying to move away from," Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said of towns along the shore. "If anything, I think the pandemic and the rise of single-use plastics during COVID-19 reaffirms the importance of ... starting to phase out single-use disposables."

 

Previous reporting by Dino Flammia and Michael Symons was used in this report.

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