TRENTON, NJ – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nancy Pinkin and John McKeon to discourage the use of single-use carryout plastic bags and reduce the damaging impact they have on the environment was approved Thursday by the Assembly.

“Most stores have made the change and now provide more environmentally friendly bags for customers,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This bill encourages more stores to get on board and move away from using the bags that are harmful to the environment.”

“Plastic bags are very disruptive to the environment,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “They wash up in our waterways, are hazardous to marine life and even pollute the air when burned at landfills. This can help encourage more stores to make environmentally responsible choices when it comes to shopping bags.”

Sign Up for E-News

“We have to do more to protect the environment against climate change and other environmental concerns,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “There are many more eco-friendly options available to stores than plastic bags. This bill will encourage more stores to go green.”

The bill (A-3267) would establish a fee on the use of single-use carryout bags provided by certain types of stores to customers and dedicate revenue from the fee to the “Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund.”

Specifically, beginning on October 1, 2018, the bill would require each operator of a store to impose a $0.05 fee on a customer for each single-use carryout bag that is provided to the customer.  However, the bill provides that no fee would be charged if the customer is enrolled as a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), or the Work First New Jersey program.  

Under the bill, a store is defined as a drug store, supermarket, or retail establishment that has more than 2,000 square feet of retail space or is part of a chain, and that provides carryout bags to its customers as a result of the sale of a product; and single-use carryout bag is defined as any bag that is not a reusable carryout bag, and would include single-use compostable and non-compostable plastic bags and paper bags. The definition would not include any non-handled bag intended to separate and prevent an item from damaging or contaminating another item.

Moneys in the “Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund” would be used by the Department of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Community Affairs, and the Department of Health, for lead abatement in schools and communities, including: removal and replacement of water fountains, plumbing, and pipes that contain lead; stripping lead paint from schools and residential dwellings; and other lead abatement programs.

The bill also would require the DEP to establish a public information program which addresses the harmful environmental effects caused by single-use carryout bags, and encourages consumers to use reusable carryout bags for retail shopping.  The public information program would include information on the fee charged for single-use carryout bags pursuant to the bill.

Finally, the bill would supersede or preempt any municipal and county rules, regulations, codes, and ordinances concerning the regulation or prohibition of single-use carryout bags or fees charged for those bags, except that the bill would not supersede or preempt any municipal or county rule, regulation, code, or ordinance establishing a prohibition on single-use carryout bags adopted prior to the date the bill is enacted into law. The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved 41-32-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.