Letter to the Editor: Legislation to Decrease Plastic Bag Waste Worthy of Support

The writer is Noemi De La Puente, a Lawrence Township resident and member of Sustainable Lawrence.


There are eight million people in the Garden State according to the last census. We use an average of about 400-600 plastic and/or paper bags each year (EPA Municipal Solid Waste Report, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Edward Humes in Garbology). “So what?” You might ask. This is what...

Each plastic bag costs merchants between 2-5 cents. Each paper bag costs 6-23 cents. There is no free lunch, and there is no free bag. Merchants pass the cost along to us, the consumers. Most merchants feel that they have to offer “free” bags because people expect them (we consumers can be picky sometimes).

This adds up to about $96 million a year in New Jersey, just on these stupid bags that no one really likes. So the merchants have higher overhead, and we the consumers have to pay more for our purchases in order to get our “free” bags.

The next time you look in your kitchen cupboard, or under the sink, or drawer, or wherever you stash these omnipresent “free” bags, think “this is my share of the $96 million.” What a waste!

Merchants do not have to give us “free” bags. They could charge for the bags. Make the bag another product to be sold, and not a supply, hidden in the overhead of the store.

Some establishments like Ikea and Whole Foods charge for bags. You bring your own bag, and you donʼt get charged. Some establishments like CostCo and Samʼs Club have never offered bags, and somehow their customers manage to get the purchases home. None of these stores seem to be hurting.

So can we put an end to the “free” bag charade in New Jersey? Senate Bill S-812 proposes to do just that. Charge the people who really need a bag 5 cents for the bag. The merchant keeps 20 percent, the state gets 80 percent to apply to cleaning up our environment, starting with Barnegat Bay.

S-812 is very similar to the popular and successful “Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act” that is working in Washington D.C. Bag consumption is down by almost 90 percent. Bag pollution in the Anacostia River is down by about 60 percent.

Consumers are saving money, merchants are saving money, and the 10 percent of the people who really need single use disposable shopping bags are buying them. The 90 percent who can do without the bags are reclaiming the spaces under their kitchen sinks and cupboards. Youʼd be surprised how a small fee like a nickel causes you to think “do I really need that bag?” And most often, the answer is no.

Help show your support for S-812 by contacting your state senator or assemblyperson. You can find them pretty easily at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp.

I guarantee theyʼve heard from the Plastics Industry, the recipients of the 96 million dollars each year. So now it is time for our elected officials to hear from us, the consumers who are tired of wasting $96 million on bags.

You can also sign the online petition to support NJ Senate Bill S-812, at http://signon.org/sign/vote-yes-on-plastic-bag?source=c.url&r_by=6192830.

The movement to create a fee for plastic and paper bags is gaining ground, as more people realize that they can save money, do something good for the environment, and declutter their homes if they donʼt have to subsidize other peopleʼs “free” bags.

Letʼs make history, and be the first state to pass a bill like S-812.

- Noemi De La Puente, Sustainable Lawrence



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