Atlantic County’s ban on single-use plastic bags and straws took effect Monday in county parks, while several more municipalities are banning single-use plastic bags.
Some municipalities have gone further, banning plastic straws and plastic foam food containers.
The bans are happening as the fate of a state bill (S2600/A3267) to require merchants to charge a 5-cent fee for each plastic or paper single-use bag remains unknown. Four cents of each fee would go to the state, and 1 cent would be kept by merchants.
The bill passed the Legislature on June 21, but Gov. Phil Murphy has not signed it yet.
If Murphy signs it as is, it would prevent towns and counties that haven’t already enacted bans to pass new ones.
Stone Harbor recently passed a ban on single-use plastic bags and plastic foam containers, and Stafford Township in July passed a ban on single-use plastic bags.
Stone Harbor’s ordinance also requires all disposable food service ware, such as cutlery, containers and bowls, to be recyclable or compostable.
“Feedback has been extremely positive. I’m surprised how positive it’s been,” Stafford Mayor John Spodofora said of both residents’ and business owners’ response to the plastic bag ban. “Wawa and Target have been more than positive. They have jumped out in front. They see it coming as a freight train nationally and know they have to do something.”
Spodofora said Target is giving a 5-cent credit per reuseable bag to all customers who bring their own.
Brigantine plans to introduce an ordinance banning single-use bags of plastic or paper Wednesday, while Avalon expects to pass its prohibition on single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam food containers Aug. 22.
Brigantine Councilman Vince Sera said the city is moving ahead with its ordinance to ban plastic bags because the governor has taken so long to make a decision.
“Since there seems to be so much indecision on the state level, we decided to move forward,” Sera said. “A lot of environmental groups are really frustrated. We’ve been working with the Surfrider Foundation, which has explained to us they don’t believe a fee will have an effect on people’s use of plastic bags.”
They join Long Beach Township and Harvey Cedars, which had already banned single-use plastic bags, while Longport and Ventnor opted to set 5-cent fees for each single-use bag given out by merchants. The fee in those cases are kept by the merchants.
The state legislation could also become law the next time the Assembly convenes if Murphy does nothing. New Jersey law gives governors 45 days to act, and if they do nothing, a bill that has passed the Legislature becomes law. (That 45-day period was over Aug. 5, but since the Assembly was not in session the period is extended until it next meets, which isn’t expected to happen until September.)
The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups have asked Murphy to veto the bill, saying it won’t cut down on New Jersey’s use of about 4 billion throw-away plastic bags a year.
Instead, Surfrider wants Murphy to support S2776, which bans plastic bags, Styrofoam and plastic straws from being used by most businesses.
An ordinance to ban plastic bags and plastic straws in county parks, which have polluted waterways and forests, was passed by Atlantic County freeholders in July.
Signs about the new rule will be posted in the parks, which cover 7,000 acres, county spokesperson Linda Gilmore said. And violators will be issued warnings through August 2019.
After the first year, fines up to $500 will be imposed, she said.