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Fri Dec 28, 2012, 01:31 PM

"Carryout Bag Reduction and Recycling Act"

Bill S-812 was approved by the New Jersey Senate Environment Committee last week. This bill would require a five-cent fee for each paper or plastic bag a customer gets at a checkout counter, as well as a five-cent refund for each bag provided by the customer. Out of the five-cent fee, the merchant would keep one cent, and the remaining four cents would go toward cleaning up our beautiful Barnegat Bay. A similar bill went into effect in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and reduced plastic bag use there by 60%!

If you think about it, there is no reason plastic and paper bags should be free. Stores pay about 1 cent for each plastic bag and pass this on to their customers. The bags then go on to litter our beaches and parks, and taxpayers have to pay for cleanup. I've been using cloth bags for many years, but I still see stores put a single egg carton in its own bag without asking the customer. I also see people getting just a milk jug at the WaWa and asking the cashier to double-bag it even though it has a handle. The reason a small fee can be so effective is that it makes people think twice about getting a bag they don't need.

The plastic-bag industry is against this bill. They claim recycling is the solution. While recycling plastic bags is better than throwing them away, only a tiny percentage of plastic bags are returned for recycling. First of all, you can't recycle plastic bags along with your curbside recycling, since they jam recycling machines. You have to take them to participating stores to be recycled. Even then, they don't get recycled into more bags but rather "down-cycled" into lawn furniture and the like. In other words, if you don't reduce your plastic bag use but simply recycle your bags, you will continue to get new bags made out of virgin plastic. And plastic, once created, never disappears. (There is no living organism that can feed on it and break it down.)

If this bill passes and gets signed into law, New Jersey will become the first state to have passed legislation to reduce our reliance on single-use bags. This would be a great first step toward making New Jersey a leader in environmental responsibility. If you live in New Jersey, please sign this petition to tell your senators that you support this bill:


If you do nothing, this bill will most likely die like the ones that came before it. Please take action!

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Reply "Carryout Bag Reduction and Recycling Act" (Original post)
athena Dec 2012 OP
Cleita Dec 2012 #1
athena Dec 2012 #2
Cleita Dec 2012 #3
athena Dec 2012 #4
hollysmom Mar 2013 #5

Response to athena (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 01:50 PM

1. We've had this in our county, San Luis Obispo County, CA, for a few months now.

To buy a bag is 10 cents here. The thing I wonder about is that now that retailers don't have to provide bags other than those purchased, it seems like they must be seeing some savings. I don't see those savings being passed on to the consumer. Also, my trash, both recycle and garbage, is still going into plastic bags. I used to put my recycling in paper bags as well as the bags themselves went into the recycler and not the garbage that reaches the landfills. So it seems you guys still need to ask a lot of questions. I do feel it's a step in the right direction but there are still things to work out.

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Response to Cleita (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 02:07 PM

2. You have a ban, though.

Counties can't impose fees, so they pass bans. In the case of the New Jersey bill, since this would be a state law, it is just a fee. You can still get your plastic bags; you'll just have to pay five cents per bag. The merchant will keep only one cent, which will cover what they pay for the bags. The rest of the fee will go toward cleaning up Barnegat Bay. You'll also get five cents back for each bag you provide.

Many people comment that they use plastic bags to line their trash cans, but the goal here is to reduce plastic bag use. Before I started using cloth bags, I used to get many more plastic bags than I needed for trash. They used to fill up drawers; I didn't know what to do with them. Now that I exclusively use cloth bags, I buy trash bags. The trash bags are bigger, so the total amount of plastic is less. I buy trash bags made of recycled plastic whenever I can, and I'm experimenting with compostable trash bags. When I finally get composting service, all my trash will be dry, so I won't even need trash bags.

I agree that living sustainably is extremely difficult these days. But I worry that as a society, we can't continue living the way we do indefinitely.

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Response to athena (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 02:13 PM

3. Well, good luck. Like I said it's a start.

I have been composting my organic garbage for years now since I had a yard. Many apartment dwellers don't have that luxury so you would need a separate pick-up for compostable organic waste. It's a lot to think about. Back in the forties, we incinerated a lot of our waste in our backyards, but it was banned due to air pollution.

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Response to Cleita (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 03:17 PM

4. Thanks!

I agree it's just a start.

I went back and re-read what you wrote. That's interesting about having to put your recycling in plastic bags. My town provides two recycling bins, one for plastic and one for paper. So I put my recyclables in the bins directly, without any bags. Both bins go into the same truck, though. One day, I will go and visit the recycling center to find out what they do to separate the paper from the plastic. I read "Plastic Free" by Beth Terry recently and was horrified to find out that recycling companies are not required to recycle everything they get. As a result, plastic containers that are recyclable but don't look obviously recyclable end up in the landfill even if you put them in your recycling bin. Furthermore, plastic rarely ever gets recycled; it almost always gets down-cycled. The message I got from the book is that recycling is not enough: one has to avoid getting plastic in the first place.

My town has a great composting service (separate from trash pickup), but they're not allowing new signups for a while, as they're changing providers. I used to be an apartment dweller but have had a yard for a year and a half now. I've been afraid of composting on my own but should perhaps give it a try.

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Response to athena (Original post)

Fri Mar 22, 2013, 12:33 AM

5. darn, now I have to start buying the doggy poo bags.

I have cloth bags for most things but have a few plastic bags for the dog. I get the small bags for vegetables. Now I can use paper towels in the back yard, but not for a walk.

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