NJ Senate Panel Moves Reusable Bag/Plastic Bag Tax Bill

The New Jersey Senate Environment Committee recently approved legislation by a vote of 4-0 that would provide consumers a 5 cent rebate for each reusable shopping bag in a purchase as well as 5 cent penalty for each plastic bag needed at check out. The bill was modeled on a plastic bag tax and reusable bag incentive structure used in Washington D.C., which proponents have argued has reduced the amount of plastic bags found in the Anacostia River by 60 percent.

The Chair of the Committee, Senator Bob Smith, estimated that New Jersey could generate $28 million in revenue from the bag tax that may be dedicated to environmental restoration efforts for waterways damaged from over-development and Hurricane Sandy. A coalition of more than 100 local environmental groups from New Jersey and New York supported the legislation as a way to reduce landfill space and oil consumption used in the manufacturing of the bags. During the Committee mark-up of the legislation, the bill was amended to reduce the plastic bag tax from 15 cents per bag to 5 cents. In addition, a provision was removed during the hearing that would have required businesses to reduce the number of plastic and paper bags they distribute by 75 percent.

Nationwide, more than 100 communities have passed some sort of regulation or law limiting or taxing the use of disposable plastic bags. Last May, Hawaii became the first state to institute a complete ban on the use of disposable plastic bags. Beginning in July 2015, retailers will be  prohibited from issuing non-biodegrade checkout bags and paper bags that are not at least 40 percent recycled.