New Jersey weighs passing toughest plastic ban in nation

Plastic pollution is always on Cindy Zifp's mind. As a leader of Clean Ocean Action in Sandy Hook since 1984, she has seen the problem intensify.

"We've become such a society based on disposables," she said. "We need to retrain ourselves to get out of that disposable mentality and one way to do it is to just reduce our access to them."

Some New Jersey lawmakers want to do the same and have proposed what would be the toughest plastic ban in the country.

"This ban would be a ban on plastics, a ban on Styrofoam and a ban on straws," said Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, a sponsor of the legislation.

At least 18 new jersey municipalities have enacted their own single-use plastic bans. The current Senate version of the bill would impose a 10-cent fee on paper bags.

"It just imposes taxes on citizens, it increases costs for businesses and ultimately doesn't achieve the stated goal," said Matt Seaholm, the executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which vehemently opposes the bill. He said a plastic ban will just lead to other forms of litter.

"If you ban plastic retail bags there will be other things that put into place," Seaholm said. "Paper is the obvious one, but thicker plastic."

Of course, lawmakers and environmentalists hope a ban would encourage people to bring their own reusable bags and think about ditching straws and Styrofoam containers altogether.

"People are so conscious due to superstorms and changes we're facing," Pinkin said. "We really need to make a change in our habits."

The bill has passed the Senate's environmental committee and now heads to the budget and appropriations committee. Lawmakers hope it could see a vote in the coming months.