New Jersey

New Jersey Plans a Plastic-Banning Spree

The Garden State wants to ban plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam.


Erin Alexis Randolph/

New Jersey is mulling a sweeping plastics ban aimed at reducing litter and changing lives. Though billed as the toughest plastic prohibition in the country, the bill also includes a number of carve-outs and exemptions that weaken both its impact and the justification for legislative action.

"It requires New Jersey citizens to change their lifestyle," said bill sponsor State Sen. Bob Smith (D–Middlesex) according to

Smith's bill, SB 2776, would ban plastic bags, straws, and polystyrene foam food packaging in the state, and impose a ten-cent fee on replacement paper bags. First time violators would be hit with fines of $500, rising to $1,000 for a second offense, and $5,000 per offense from there on out.

As far as plastic bans go, Smith's proposal is pretty onerous. Perhaps realizing that such a sweeping action will likely incur blowback, he and his colleagues have baked in a number of exceptions and waivers that lessen the impact of the ban.

Not all plastic bags will be completely banned by the bill, only the most visible type of plastic bags—the ones you're currently given at the checkout counter. New Jersey's bill still allows for smaller, "nonhandled" plastic bags of the kind found in the produce aisle of grocery stores, as well as larger plastic bags 10 mils or thicker.

So, in short, you can have a plastic bag, but only if it's really small and thin, or large and thick. Anything in between is an impermissible environmental hazard. Oh, unless you're a retail business with less than 1,000 feet of space. In that case, you can keep using the standard plastic bags.

It's a similar story with the bill's polystyrene ban, which would exempt business that gross less than $500,000 a year and lack access to a "reasonably affordable, commercially-available" substitute. Straws, too, are a no-no, unless you are a grocery store or other non-food service business. Restaurants could still hand out the straws, so long as the person asking for one has a disability or medical condition.

Obviously, all these provisions are included to lessen the cost, inconvenience, and irritation that will inevitably accompany the ban, should it pass. Yet, a consequence of this moderating approach is that a lot of plastic is left on the streets.

If the targeted items are really such an environmental threat that they need to be the subject of prohibition, then all these exemptions undermine the purpose of the bill. If plastic bags, straws, and foam containers are inconsequential enough to allow for wide exemptions, what's the justification for strict bans and fees for any violation?

The logic of New Jersey's plastics ban grows thinner, still, when one considers that the most commonly littered plastics won't even be touched by it. According to the 2018 New Jersey Litter Survey (which looked at litter contents along roadways in the state), the most common sources of litter are tire scraps, which make up 11 percent of all litter.

The catch-all category "other paper" comes in second at 8.9 percent, with plastic shrink wrap as the third most commonly littered item at 4.9 percent. One has to get to item number 13 on the list (straws/wrappers) before anything prohibited under New Jersey's plastics ban comes up.

Beach cleanup stats tell a similar story. New Jersey's 2016 beach cleanup—part of the Ocean Conservancy's international coastal clean up day—netted 4,300 plastic straws and stirrers and 2,410 plastic bags. That makes straws and bags 6 percent of all beach litter collected when measured by item. By weight (and using industry average weights of .42 grams per straw and 5.5 grams per bag) they're even less.

Passing a bill outlawing plastic candy wrappers, or shrink wrap, would be more effective at cutting down on litter. Given how integral these plastic items are to numerous industries, that's probably not very feasible.

In short, there's a surface logic to New Jersey's plastics ban that might appear compelling at first glance: plastic is a problem, these are items we can ban, but we'll make a few exceptions so the ban isn't felt to harshly. But once you consider the real drivers of litter, these categories start to look less like sensible compromises, and more like arbitrary selections that serve eco-politics moreso than ecological systems.

SB 2776 has passed out of the Senate Environment Committee and is currently being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The full New Jersey Senate and Assembly must pass the bill for it to become law.

NEXT: D.C. Repeals a Minimum Wage Hike That Restaurant Workers Didn't Want

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  1. “It requires New Jersey citizens to change their lifestyle,”

    And there is the justification for the law

    1. What? Is virtue signaling no longer a thing?

  2. If New Jersey gets rid of all its trash will it even exist anymore?

    1. Yes, but the state population will be reduced to 1.

    2. *Rim Shot*

  3. Guaranteed, food borne related illness goes up.

    Keeping food pathogens at bay with single use plastic food containers, is likely responsible for low foodborne pathogen deaths.

  4. “Banning these items will do a lot of good, and only a little harm!”

    “But it won’t actually do a lot of good.”

    “Hey, if it does even a little good…”

  5. Yeah, plastic is what’s wrong with New Jersey.

  6. So, wants to save the world, but only if they can do so by sacrificing as little of their material possessions as possible, over as generous a timeframe as possible.

    Clearly, someone needs to get them into role-playing games.

    1. Bag and straw bans are supported most by folks who take their huge SUV loaded with organic groceries to their 4,000 square foot mini mansion with a smug smile at how they are saving the planet.

      1. The bill’s sponsor is in Middlesex County, so….yes.

        1. More like “Middling Sex, Cunty.”

  7. Argh! What’s wrong with my state? If we want to get rid of useless garbage we should stop voting in all these terrible politicians.

    And I tell you it’s not like there’s some groundswell of opinion for getting rid of plastic bags, politicians could leave them untouched with no consequences. But since they have a solid lock on power, what do they care. Theyll just keep getting voted in again and and again and everyone will have to suffer their idiotic ideas.

    1. You nailed it on the head. Everyone in my county (Gloucester) complains, but most of the ones who vote are reliable democrats.

  8. Microbreweries could host trash clean-up events.

    1. But only 25 of them!

  9. Been to a few restaurants where they’ve stopped serving straws. Much more annoying to have any drink that comes with ice without them I’ve found.

    1. But think of all the turtles you’re saving.

        1. Anyone else here seen Sturgill Simpson live? Saw him back in July and wasn’t impressed. Maybe he just had a bad night.

          Although I’ll give him credit for being the only country act I’ve seen come close to blowing out the sound system at the SBC.

          1. I just assume that you are a Jersey trash-person with trash taste who doesn’t possess the ability to assess good music.

            1. Next you’ll be telling me that Bon Jovi….never mind.

          2. Country is the one genre of music I could never get into. I think it’s the twangy vocals, they make my ears hurt. I do love me some bluegrass, though. Bluegrass is one of the greatest genres out there. Just keep it instrumental, please.

            1. Hey it’s CMB the Boofer Troofer!

              God, that was one of your dumber admissions.

            2. No exception for Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline ?

  10. The tire scrap litter is truck tire recaps coming off. So ban recaps. I’m sure the NJ trucking industry will greet that warmly. If the bill sponsor goes missing, check all the swamps.

    1. Given the volume of trucking traffic in NJ, I’d bet their lobby is in tight with the state govt.

      Plus, Teamsters.

    2. Tire scrap litter is also a safety hazard to humans, not turtles. Why does NJ hate people? WHY?!

  11. So, in short, you can have a plastic bag, but only if it’s really small and thin, or large and thick.

    It reminds me of the men I date, am I right ladies?

  12. “It requires New Jersey citizens to change their lifestyle,” said bill sponsor State Sen. Bob Smith (D?Middlesex) according to

    In case you were curious, Bob Smith is a fat, doughy trash-person, but it’s Jersey, where fat, doughy trash-people decide how the other trash-peolple should live their trash lives.

    1. North Jersey. Well, there you go.

    2. Danny Devito wants you to go fuck yourself.

    3. Southern Jersey is actually quite nice. Specifically, I am talking about the Pine Barrens, where there are very few actual Jersey people.

  13. Don’t forget to ban computers too.
    A lot of them have plastic parts.
    New Jersey will be such a better place without them.

  14. Is it true that New Jersey is banning plastics in breast implants as well, and is on a HIRING SPREE to “staff up”, shall we say, with those willing to perform manual mammary-gland inspections?

    Does anyone have a link? Asking for a friend of mine…

    Staff up NOW, New Jersey!!!!

    1. All the Jersey shore snooky-monsters are gonna have to make do with paper mache implants.

  15. Smith’s bill, SB 2776, would ban … polystyrene foam food packaging in the state

    Well, that’s not so bad. I’ll bet there’s very little polystyrene foam food consumed in NJ.

    1. Well, they say that “you are what you eat”, so…

      I also observe that politicians and law enforcement folks (judges, lawyers, etc., most certainly included) are most often seemingly made of polystyrene foam… Especially in New Jersey… Yet you say…

      ” I’ll bet there’s very little polystyrene foam food consumed in NJ.”

      Please “Explain… As you would, to a child!”

      1. Oh, very well. I’ll bet there’s very little food for polystyrene foam in NJ.

  16. Again, I say we return to using wood and animal products for everything.

    1. Am I following this correctly?

      “Good jobs for good residents of Diane Reynolds’ house” means that Diane Reynolds will make everything needed in that particular household, out of wood and animal products, trading with NO ONE who is less deserving of a job!

      At my SQRLSY One household, we, too, will NOT trade with ANYONE, reserving the good jobs for deserving residents of the SQRLSY One household, where, using nothing but our teeth and hands, we will fashion ALL that we need, from wood, rocks, and mud!!!

      And we will ALL be incredibly RICH!!!!

  17. I’m wondering how we’ll get the goods from the cashier to the car trunk, & then from the trunk into the house. Corrugated cardboard boxes, I suppose. Which will absolutely not pose a disposal or vermin problem. But good thing there are 2 of us shopping together now, so we can conveniently carry the boxes we’ll have to use.

    1. Corrugated cardboard boxes, I suppose.

      Just burn them in your back yard which… wait, there’s probably a law against that. Throw them in the neighbor’s yard.

    2. When I go to Costco, I carry most of the stuff in corrugated boxes, but that’s Costco. For normal shopping, there’s still paper bags, but the plastic ones are great for picking up after your dog. Maybe these ban-happy politicians need to have some dog poop shoveled into their yards.

  18. It always gives me a chuckle when I go to this grocery store in a nearby city where there is a local ordinance banning plastic bags, because when I was a kid they wanted us to use plastic instead of paper to save the trees.

  19. Know why people in NYC are always pissed off?

    The light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey.

    1. There is also all the piss smell.

      1. That’s just your face.

        1. Dude. That just isn’t nice. It’s his bed, not his face. Jeez.

          1. Maybe his bed is causing the face thing?

            1. I’ve got a long history of drinking too much, and I never pissed on my pillows. I’ve bled on them plenty, but no piss.

  20. When State Sen. Bob Smith (D?Middlesex) bans the housing on his ‘phone, the use of plastics in his car, the removal of plastics from his clothing and furnishings (including his computers and TVs) and the removal of all plastic goods from his kitchen, I’ll take him seriously.
    Until then, STFU, you fucking imbecile.

  21. I’m totally against these meaningless bans, but this article is amateur hour tripe.

    Every argument in it is written from a purest black and white perspective. If a law doesn’t completely solve the litter problem, it shouldn’t be created. If there is some other contribution to litter that is very difficult to ban, we shouldn’t try banning these litter sources that are somewhat easier to ban.

    Is this really what amounts to serious intellectual reasoning? All it takes is someone saying “Hey, we may not be tackling 100% of litter, but with this minor inconvenience we knock out 4%” and every person who is not already on board with libertarian thought will nod their heads.

    1. Shorter Overt: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      1. Anarchy-land is the perfect good.

        Yeah ripping on anarchy not prveventing government bans.

        1. Crazy Injun is drunk again.

  22. Sources say Hillary Clinton uses a strap on dildo to ‘do’ her totally gay lover Lady Gaga.

    1. Come on… Hillary gives the business end of the strap-on dildo to Bill.

      Its why he needed lolilta express to pass on the depravity.

  23. Heard some dude give a, um, credible explanation for Ford’s story.

    She intensely remembers the horror, yet nothing about how she got to or from the house.
    No people she considers witnesses remember the event.

    Therefore, it was a nightmare.

  24. Absolutely and totally OT, but may be of interest.
    I was ‘there’ several years back starting in Urumchqi, to Turpan, Aksu, (across the shifting sands desert), Hotan. Yecheng, where you turn left to Tibet (and where the local yutes wanted dollars in the hope of getting here. And then Kashgar.

    “Uighurs in Exile Fear for Loved Ones Amid Crackdown in China ”
    People of the Uighur diaspora are lobbying governments around the world to pressurize China to release information about the fate of their missing family members.
    The Chinese government has tightened its grip on the far western Xinjiang province, calling it a campaign against religious extremism.”
    The United Nations estimates that up to 1 million minority Muslim Uighurs could be held involuntarily in the so-called political re-education camps under the “broad definition of terrorism, and vague references to extremism, and an unclear definition of separatism in Chinese legislation.”
    (Oh, and fuck you Hugh if you think it’s my job to spend time fixing the Reason web site)

    1. I got a TON of muslim comments, visits to mosques, fat chance (forgive me) of pork, and about as much pitch for the religion as I might have gotten for Xianity in a strip-mall in Kentucky.
      Yes there are non-fundy Muslims. A lot of tehm.
      BuI can tell you that on Xinjiang freeways, at every 50Km, all vehicles were required to stop and all passengers has to ‘present papers’.
      As in response to occupiers everywhere, the Han Chinese might well be nervous, but the way they are dealing with it now looks like it might be counterproductive.

  25. Where will the rest of the country send its garbage now?

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