SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Just as stricter recycling rules hit Maplewood and South Orange, the entire state could face a new tax on paper and plastic bags. A new bill passed in New Jersey Senate this June may have you opting for reusable bags at the supermarket and drug store.

Bill A3267 would impose a 5-cent fee on single-use bags in chains or any store with retail space exceeding 2,000 square feet. If signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, the proposed law would go into effect on October 1, 2018. The bill coincides with China’s stringent new regulations that exclude plastic bags from recycling, which is already included in Bayonne's recylcing guidelines. 

Some critics call for stricter legislation, advocating for the ban of plastic altogether.

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“We shouldn’t be using plastics at all, even if the state would wind up generating some funds from a bag fee,” said Janet Tauro, Clean Water Action’s NJ Board Chair in a press release. “Some things are just more important than money like environmental and public health.”

The District of Columbia implemented a similar tax in 2010, which resulted in a 60 percent decrease in household disposable bag use. D.C. stores also altered their practices, according to a DOEE survey, with 79 percent of businesses providing fewer single-use bags to customers. Hawaii, on the other hand, passed a statewide plastic bag ban in 2015.

The New Jersey Food Council (NJFC), an alliance of New Jersey food retailers and their suppliers, supports Bill A3267 because of its universal guidelines for stores. “Our industry recognizes the need for a balanced solution...providing retailers with a uniform and standard policy, rather than forcing food stores to comply with a confusing patchwork of municipal ordinances,” said NJFC President Linda Doherty in a press release.