TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee released a bill today to reduce the volume of carryout shopping bags. The vote was 4-0-1 with Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck abstaining.
S2812 mandates that starting Jan. 1, 2014, such stores as groceries must charge 5 cents for every carryout bag distributed.
The bill wants stores to cut back on the volume of such bags by 75 percent.
By Jan. 1, 2015, the only carryout bags that a store could give out would be recyclable ones.
The store would keep a penny, and 4 cents would go to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Chairman and sponsor Sen. Bob Smith said the bill, among other things, would generate money for waterways cleanups, a matter of increased importance in the wake of super storm Sandy.
Smith estimated that $22 million to $28 million in revenue could be generated to help clean up sites such as Barnegat Bay.
The bill states that more than 14 billion plastic and 10 billion paper bags are used annually nationally, of which only 1 percent of the plastic bags are recycled.
Sen. Jennifer Beck questioned whether plastic bags or littering per se is the problem, and she referenced a N.J. 2011 beach sweep data report that categorized trash, showing that such bags were not the most widely discarded trash item in the state.
She said a lot of plastic is being littered, including bags, and possibly the focus should be on the overall problem of plastic and other litter. “A ban on bags is kind of nipping at the edge,’’ she said.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, whose members are manufacturers of bags, opposed the bill, claiming such taxes are regressive and would hurt jobs.
However, Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club pointed out that plastic bags clog filters and threaten wildlife, strangling sea birds, for example.
The Sierra Club and the N.J. Surfrider Foundation argued this bill is about changing people’s behavior to help the environment.
The Committee also released these bills:
S2121: This bill, passed unanimously, would provide tax credits toward the corporation business tax, gross income tax, and certain other taxes for developers and owners who design and construct buildings that meet certain “green building” criteria.
SR21: This resolution, passed unanimously, urges the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council to establish new artificial reefs for commercial fishing, and to consider using materials from dredging the Delaware River and New York-New Jersey Harbor for the construction of the new reefs.