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New Jersey Gov. Vetoes Plastic Bag Fee Because It Doesn't 'Go Far Enough'

Environmental groups hope for an outright ban instead.

Ron Sachs/SIPA/NewscomRon Sachs/SIPA/NewscomNew Jersey's governor vetoed a plastic bag fee today, but not because he's reluctant to regulate the product. He just doesn't think the 5-cent-a-bag charge is enough.

In a statement today, Gov. Phil Murphy praised the reasoning behind the measure. Single-use carryout bags, the Democrat said, "represent a significant source of the litter that clutters our communities and mars New Jersey's beautiful shoreline and parks." They can also "cripple water infrastructure" and threaten wildlife, he added.

But Murphy couldn't support the "incomplete and insufficient" bill. "Instituting a five-cent fee on single-use bags that only applies to certain retailers does not go far enough to address the problems created by overreliance on plastic bags and other single-use carryout bags," he said. "In order to make a real difference, a single-use bag program must be devised and 2 applied more broadly and consistently in a manner that would avoid loopholes that undermine the ultimate purpose of the program."

Murphy's comments are consistent with criticism from advocacy groups, many of whom also opposed the measure. Though Murphy didn't mention any specific alternatives, there's been speculation that New Jersey could follow in the footsteps of California and Hawaii by implementing an outright ban. Almost 20 New Jersey towns have already banned plastic bags.

In June, state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) introduced a bill that would ban plastic bag and straws as well as Styrofoam cups. With Murphy having rejected the plastic bag fee, Smith tells the North Jersey Record that "there is a lot of momentum for a ban, and I think we'll have it done by the end of the year."

Amy Goldsmith, executive director of Clean Water Action, expressed similar sentiments. "We couldn't get to a ban with a fee bill," she explains to the Record. "You would see a reduction at first, but then the numbers would have gone up. But after a while, who's going to remember the 5 cents? People will just start paying."

In recent months, many local governments have implemented bans on plastic products, particularly straws. Such intrusive measures rarely do much good. As Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward pointed out in 2015, plastic bags make up a tiny percentage of the waste humans produce. "The 2009 Keep America Beautiful Survey," Mangu-Ward wrote, "shows that all plastic bags, of which plastic retail bags are only a subset, are just 0.6 percent of visible litter nationwide."

Banning plastic bags might make some environmentalists feel good, but that's about it.

Photo Credit: Ron Sachs/SIPA/Newscom

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  • Hamster of Doom||

    We're only a couple of tweaks away from the perfect centrally-managed economy.

    And they said it couldn't be done. Those fools.

  • Longtobefree||

    If there is a God, sooner of later, we will ban laws. All that paper waste generated; printing up the bill, filing legal motion after legal motion, registering and following up on violators, studies of effectiveness, etc. Really, just ban laws.

  • NoVaNick||

    Thanks to these fuckers, there are piles of dog crap starting to appear on the sidewalks, since nobody has anything to easily scoop it up with, Same for emptying my cat's litter box.

  • Hank Phillips||

    True dat!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    That's the second best reason to not have a cat.

  • albo||

    Idiots. Idiot, know-nothing politicians listening to tree-hugging zealots who themselves know nothing excepts imposing their religion on the rest of us in exchange for votes.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    ...mars New Jersey's beautiful shoreline and parks."

    More FAKE NEWS spread by USA politicians. When will Facebook and the rest de-platform politicians?

  • Speaker||

    The perfect is the friend of the good.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    These legislative proposals all target "single-use" bags.

    Solution: after carrying home your Tastycakes and hoagie from Wawa, use the bag again as a small trash-can liner or to clean up after your dog.

    Voia! It's no longer a single-use bag and therefore not subject to the ban/tax.

  • Uncle Jay||

    The New Jersey environmentalist are right.
    We need to ban humans, oxygen, water, dirt, plants, animals, the sun, the moon, and the earth if we are to have a really clean environment to live in.
    It's the only way we can make our planet livable.

  • Uncle Jay||

    The New Jersey environmentalist are right.
    We need to ban humans, oxygen, water, dirt, plants, animals, the sun, the moon, and the earth if we are to have a really clean environment to live in.
    It's the only way we can make our planet livable.

  • ||

    It takes a special kind of retardation to watch American Beauty and think that the plastic bag was the villain.

  • Johnimo||

    "Retardation"??? What kind of a politically incorrect word is that? Are you sure you don't mean "handicappednous"?

    John in Montana, rolling on the floor with mouth cramps.

  • Juice||

    Just make bags out of cigarette filters.
    Oh wait.

  • leninsmummy||

    this is the reason why socialism is so miserable. The little people don't get plastic bags or cigarette filters or opioids for their pain, while the deciders live in multi-million dollar mansions and eat out every night. How is the plastic bag ban going to affect this cretin? How about a ban on private jet travel instead?

  • Hank Phillips||

    There was a front page thing in the Austin paper on the Supreme Court striking down such bans a month or two ago. I didn't buy the paper because I was on my bike with no backpack and a paper bag would've torn open. What's the Reason scoop on that?

  • perlchpr||

    He's right! These bans never go far enough! NJ needs to ban plastic entirely. I don't care if it destroys their entire economy.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    You know, he's right. The best way to make this bill go far enough is to still institute the 5 cent tax, however, as soon as the tax is paid you should put the bag over the head of those that would use them. I don't know if any better way to cute wrong think than a few bodies martyred in the name of litter.

    I'm accordance to this and the cigarette ban proposed, anyone that buys cigarettes should have the cigarette snuffed out on their face. I can really get in to this kind of compassionate law.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Isn't it fun watching the left go insane?

    Well, it would be fun if they didn't have enough power to drag a considerable part of the country with them into the madhouse.

  • UncleSam13||

    Getting plastic bags at no additional charge was one of the few things I liked about my visit to New Jersey this year. Of course I took them home to California.

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