On November 4th, New Jersey became the national leader in combating plastics after Governor Murphy signed the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (S864/A1978). The historic bill writes a ban on plastic and paper single-use bags, disposable food containers, and polystyrene foam cups into NJ law and will be implemented starting May 2022, making it the most comprehensive bag ban in the nation. Environmental activists and organizations including ANJEC, New Jersey LCV, Clean Ocean Action, and New Jersey Sierra Club have been tirelessly working for this very moment. The bill is the result of years of grassroots environmental leadership and people power, with the support of residents in communities across the Garden State having played a significant role. After years of municipalities taking incremental steps to reduce single-use plastics, this bill will guide the entire state on a trajectory to phase out plastics. It could not be clearer that this is a victory for NJ residents and generations to come. Items we dispose of after 15 minutes should not be spending generations polluting our communities, health, oceans, waterways, wildlife, and economy.
The battle against single-use plastics would have been in a drastically different situation today had the 2018 Plastics Bill been passed. This piece of legislation made its way through the Senate and Assembly, but Governor Murphy vetoed the bill and signalled his support for a much stronger ban on plastics. Had Gov. Murphy signed the bill, it would have been another small step on a long path to combatting plastic pollution. The weak bill would have placed a fee on paper bags, but now we see that our current path is a leap beyond that. The bipartisan support that S864 received in the state legislature made the 2-year wait worth it. Now, we can move forward knowing that New Jersey has taken a stride in the right direction.
On an important note, let’s not brush aside the part that young people had in this victory. Youth-led NJ groups have demanded action against plastic pollution. The New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition’s Plastics Team, Bye Bye Plastic Bags New Jersey, Teaneck Girl Scouts, Val’s Valiants and several other youth organizations have taken a stand against plastic pollution. In the swamp of tragedy and hardship that people have faced this year, the bill is definitely a streak of hope in environmental leadership. This bill is a reminder that the future is in our hands. Today, I’m hopeful that our dedication to sustainability will lead to stronger climate and environmental policy in New Jersey. Give yourself a pat on the back because you deserve it for being a part of this movement. Now, let’s get back to reminding state officials that young people are unstoppable.