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Paper-bag ban passed by New Jersey legislature would be first in nation

The bill, which now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy, would also limit single-use plastic bags, polystyrene takeout boxes, and plastic straws.
Meals and supplies distributed to residents in need during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Newark
A man carries a bag containing meals, face masks and other personal protective supplies during a distribution to residents in need outside the NAN Newark Tech World in Newark, N.J., on May 6, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters file

The New Jersey Legislature on Thursday passed a sweeping bill that would make the state the first in the country to ban single-use paper bags at supermarkets.

The bill, which would also prohibit single-use plastic bags and limit the use of polystyrene takeout boxes and in some cases plastic straws, now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy.

The governor's office could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. But his spokesman, Mahen Gunaratna, told The New York Times that Murphy supports the legislation.

"The governor is proud to support the strongest bag ban in the nation,” the spokesman said. “This bill will significantly reduce the harm that these products cause to our environment.”

Environmentalists in the state praised the legislation as an important measure to help curb pollution from plastic, paper, and polystyrene.

“New Jersey Assembly voted to pass the strongest single-use ban on plastics in the country to prioritize our wildlife and our communities over endless plastic waste polluting our waterways,” Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, said in a statement.

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A shopper picks up bags at the checkout counter of a grocery store in Newark, N.J., on May 6, 2020.Sarah Blesener / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Eight other states have passed bans on the use of single-use plastic bags in supermarkets, including New Jersey neighbor, New York state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some of these states have temporarily eased their bans amid the pandemic due to concerns over the possible transmission of coronavirus through reusable bags.

New Jersey’s bill would ban single-use plastic and paper bags at supermarkets

It would also prohibit any business that sells or provides food for consumption on or off their premises from providing polystyrene takeout containers or foam cups that hold more than two ounces of liquid, and requires that plastic straws be given to customers only upon request.

Murphy in 2018 vetoed a bill that would have added a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic carryout bags.

"I cannot support this bill," Murphy said in a statement at the time. "While well intentioned, the approach reflected in this bill strikes me as incomplete and insufficient."

Republican lawmakers opposed the bill, saying it would harm small businesses already hurt by the pandemic.

“This bill impacts manufacturing plants in New Jersey and New Jersey jobs during this terrible economic and pandemic time,” said Dennis Hart, the executive director of the Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers.