TRENTON, N.J. -- The New Jersey Assembly, by a 48-24 margin (with 7 not voting), passed the strongest plastics ban in the nation on Thursday, prohibiting single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam containers, and making people request straws if they want them. If Gov. Phil Murphy signs the legislation into law, it will be implemented over 18 months.
New Jersey is poised to join Maine, Vermont, and Maryland -- as well as New York City -- in banning plastic foam containers. The state of New York is implementing a ban as well by January 2022.
Polystyrene foam is flimsy and breaks apart easily. The smaller it gets, the more difficult it is to clean up from neighborhood streets, parks, and beaches. According to Clean Ocean Action’s Beach Sweeps report, nearly 25,000 pieces of foam were collected off of New Jersey’s beaches. In addition, NY/NJ Baykeeper executed a research study to quantify and classify plastic particles within NY-NJ Harbor waters. Based on the sample collection, at least 165 million plastic particles are floating in the harbor. Forty percent of that plastic -- the most abundant type -- is polystyrene foam.
In response, Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, and Alex Truelove, U.S. PIRG’s Zero Waste Program director, issued the following statements:
“Banning single-use plastic bags and foam containers will ensure we’re prioritizing New Jersey’s wildlife and communities over waste,” said O’Malley. “Plastic and polystyrene items we use for 15 minutes should not end up in our environment and communities for countless generations to come. Polystyrene cannot be recycled at scale. We applaud the State Assembly for moving forward and passing this legislation.”
“We can’t stop the flow of plastic pollution unless we turn off the tap, by making less disposable plastic in the first place” said Truelove. “We know that plastic shopping bags and foam containers are among the most common, harmful and non-recyclable forms of plastic out there. Study after study agrees: we’re better off without them.”