(AP) New Jersey is again looking to change the way customers take home food and beverages.
The state Senate on March 6 voted 22-14 to ban single-use plastic and paper bags along with foam containers. The bill would not ban plastic straws, but customers would have to request them.
Businesses that violate the ban would face a warning for a first offense, a fine of up to $1,000 for a second offense and a $5,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
"If you have been to the beach you can see it with your own eyes, our beaches are polluted with plastics. Children dig them up in the sand and swimmers pull plastic bags out of the water,'' said the bill's co-sponsor, Democratic Sen. Linda Greenstein.
Opponents include industry groups such as chemical manufacturers and grocery store owners, who argue the ban will make New Jersey an outlier compared to other states and increase costs to consumers because replacements will need to be found and implemented. The measure failed to advance in the last legislative session, and the Assembly was working on its own version.
New York officially prohibited stores from handing out most thin plastic bags starting March 1. But state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the state has agreed to delay enforcement as it fights a lawsuit in Albany County court, lodged by a manufacturer of plastic bags and by convenience store owners who call the ban unconstitutional.
An association of 6,000 convenience store owners statewide opposes the state's efforts to allow stores to hand out only thick, reusable plastic bags that the industry says it can't yet produce.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation last June barring Pennsylvania's municipalities from taxing or banning the sale or distribution of plastic bags and other containers, wrappings and bags for one year while legislative agencies study the economic and environmental impact.
Last year, Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman of Centre County said he wanted the provision because his district includes a plastics manufacturer and a township considering a fee on plastic bags.
Philadelphia city officials are also considering a ban on plastic bags and a fee on reusable bags that many stores provide. Wolf in 2017 vetoed legislation preventing counties and municipalities from taxing or banning plastic bags.