The plastic bag battle rages on in the Garden State following New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's veto of a bill that would impose a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags. The governor's veto triggered disappointment by some and cheers from others who are hoping that the measure will clear the road for an outright ban on single-use plastic bags.
Bag bans have become a point of controversy among retailers and local governments taking opposing sides on the issue. In April, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, which prompted Wegmans to issue a cautionary statement regarding the "unintended consequences" of such a move, WGB previously reported.
Wegmans warned that an increased use of paper bags are "not what’s best for the environment," because it takes "seven tractor trailers to transport the same number of paper bags as plastic bags carried by one tractor trailer and 90% more resources and energy to make and recycle paper compared to plastic." The Rochester, N.Y.-based retailer also warned that additional resources are needed to produce reusable bags, which are not recyclable.
New Jersey's entry into the discussion brings up whether a fee is a viable solution to single-use plastic bag waste as opposed to an overall ban. According to NJ.com, when the veto was announced at a legislative hearing, numerous academics and environmentalists who are in favor of an overall ban as opposed to a tax cheered. Some argue a tax would do no more than increase revenue for the state while consumers quickly forget about the extra 5 cents and continue to choose plastic.
Conversely, others were not as pleased with the N.J. governor's veto, including Linda Doherty, president of the New Jersey Food Council, who said in a statement that the proposed fee on single-use bags was "the most impactful solution to reducing both paper and plastic bags in our solid-waste stream and a giant first step toward a plastic bag ban."
"We remain committed to working with the administration, legislative leaders and stakeholders on a statewide policy and stand ready to roll up our sleeves and develop a viable bag program for New Jersey in the coming months," Doherty said.
Meanwhile, about 20 New Jersey towns have already imposed their own bans or have them in the works, according to NJ.com, and several towns rushed to ban plastic bags while the bill was pending "so their stricter regulations would be grandfathered in if the 5-cent fee statewide bill were signed."
Murphy's veto follows in the wake of The Kroger Co.'s announcement last week to swap all single-use plastic bags with reusable options companywide by 2025, with efforts starting in the retailer's Seattle, Wash.-based Quality Food Centers (QFC) division, which is expected to be completely plastic bag-free by 2019.