New Jersey lawmakers propose legislation to ban paper bags

New Jersey’s Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a bill that would ban single-use carryout bags and containers, including plastic and paper bags, polystyrene products. New Jersey Senate-Assembly Bill 1978 is sponsored by New Jersey Reps. Nancy Pinkin, James Kennedy, and John McKeon. The lawmakers first introduced the legislation Jan. 14, and it is currently with the state’s Assembly Appropriations Committee as of this month.

According to the bill, fines for violations can range up to $5,000. The bill would also create a Plastics Advisory Council to monitor the bill’s compliance.

However, opposition to the paper-bag ban portion of this proposed legislation, including from the Washington-based American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), has emerged. Abigail Sztein, director of governmental affairs at AF&PA, says the proposed legislation is the first in the U.S. to try to ban paper bags.

“The American Forest & Paper Association opposes bans on paper products,” she says. “Consumers need a safe packaging option to protect their essential purchases from damage and contamination. Paper bags are a clean, hygienic, and convenient choice to meet those needs while also being recyclable, reusable, and compostable.

“The forest products industry in the Garden State supports more than 13,000 individuals at 156 facilities,” she adds. “Banning paper bags in the state would send an alarming message about family-wage jobs, which are often union labor, in addition to indirect jobs supported by the industry. Furthermore, paper bags are locally produced, sustainable and the only grocery bag that New Jersey consumers can recycle at home in their curbside bin. … Banning paper bags as part of this legislation is a solution in search of a problem.”

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