Gov. Murphy Signs Bill Banning Single-Use Paper and Plastic Bags

Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed Senate Bill 864 banning single-use paper and plastic bags

Gov. Murphy Signs Bill Banning Single-Use Paper and Plastic Bags

Gov. Murphy Signs Bill Banning Single-Use Paper and Plastic Bags

<strong>Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed Senate Bill 864 banning single-use paper and plastic bags</strong>

Author: Daniel T. McKillop|November 23, 2020

On November 4, 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation (Senate Bill 864) banning single-use paper and plastic bags. Once New Jersey’s ban takes effect next May, it will be the strongest environmental law of its kind in the country.

“Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans,” Governor Murphy said in a press statement. “With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”  

Single-Use Plastic and Paper Bags

Starting May 2022, a store or food service business will be prohibited from providing or selling a single-use plastic carryout bag to a customer. In addition, a grocery store would be prohibited from providing or selling a single-use paper carryout bag to a customer.  The following, however, are exempt:

  • A bag used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish, or poultry;
  • A bag used solely to package loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, grains, baked goods, candy, greeting cards, flowers, or small hardware items;
  • A bag used solely to contain live animals, such as fish or insects sold in a pet store;
  • A bag used solely to contain food sliced or prepared to order, including soup or hot food;
  • A laundry, dry cleaning, or garment bag; 
  • A bag provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs;
  • A newspaper bag; and
  • Any similar bag, as determined by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). 

Polystyrene Foam Food Service Products

S-864 also bans disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam. Businesses will be prohibited from selling any polystyrene foam foodservice products, and foodservice businesses will be prohibited from providing or selling any food in a polystyrene foam foodservice product. The following products, however, will be exempt for an additional two years after May 2022:  

  • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
  • Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
  •  Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance;
  • Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam foodservice product; and
  • Any other polystyrene foam foodservice product as determined necessary by Department of Environmental Protection.

Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is authorized, upon written application by a person or foodservice business, to waive the prohibitions on polystyrene foam foodservice products for a period of up to one year if:  (1) there is no feasible and commercially available alternative for a specific polystyrene foam foodservice product; or (2) the person or foodservice business has less than $500,000 in gross annual income and there is no reasonably affordable, commercially-available alternative to the polystyrene foam foodservice product.

Plastic Straws

Starting November 2021, food service businesses will only be able to provide a single-use plastic straw to a customer upon the request of the customer.  A store, however, would be permitted to provide other types of straws, such as paper or reusable metal straws, without limitation.

Enforcement and Compliance

The DEP, a municipality, and any entity certified pursuant to the County Environmental Health Act are authorized to enforce S-864; with the exception that the DOH would enforce the provisions of the law concerning single-use plastic straws.  Any person or entity that violates the provisions of the new law will be subject to a warning for a first offense, a fine of up to $1,000 for a second offense, and a fine of up to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense.  If the violation is of a continuing nature, each day during which it continues would constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense.  The Department of State, in consultation with DEP, is required to establish a program to assist businesses in complying with the provisions of S-864, including, but not limited to, developing and publishing compliance guidance on its website guidance and establishing an online clearinghouse of vendors who provide environmentally sound alternatives to single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, polystyrene foam foodservice products, and single-use plastic straws.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.

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About Author Daniel T. McKillop

Daniel T. McKillop

Dan McKillop has more than fifteen years of experience representing corporate and individual clients in complex environmental litigation and regulatory proceedings before state and federal courts and environmental agencies arising under numerous state and federal statutes.

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