N.J. Bans Single-Use Bags, Joining an Environmental Vanguard

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New Jersey will ban plastic and paper bags as well as most polystyrene foam food containers, putting what historically has been one of the most polluted states at the forefront of a drive against single-use consumer products.

The ban, signed Wednesday by Governor Phil Murphy, will take effect in May 2022 and affect mostly restaurants and retail shops. Exceptions will be made for foam-packed butchered meats and food pre-packaged by manufacturers. Starting in November 2021, the legislation also will prohibit restaurants from providing plastic drinking straws unless patrons request them.

New Jersey has 114 Superfund sites, the most among U.S. states -- the fallout from a toxic manufacturing past. Murphy, in a news release on the restrictions, called the legislation “a significant step to reduce harm and pollution that these products cause to our environment.” Doug O’Malley, director of the advocacy group Environment New Jersey, called the ban the strongest of its kind in the U.S.

“The focus throughout the state will be on using reusable bags,” Murphy said.

At least eight U.S. states have banned single-use plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association and other lobbying groups had opposed the ban, arguing that it would inconvenience consumers and drive up costs for restaurants and others.

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