Nickel fee on bags in N.J. weighed as way to fund Barnegat Bay cleanup

    New Jersey legislators are offering their five cents on a plan to charge shoppers a fee for a paper or plastic bag.

    A measure under consideration would require stores to impose a nickel fee on each disposable plastic or paper bag they provide to customers.

    The executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance spoke out against the measure at a Senate committee hearing Monday.

    “Taxes on American-made plastic bags are regressive. They can hurt New Jersey’s working class, have a negative effect on jobs, and burden businesses,” Dave Asselin said.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Consumers who bring their own bag to the store would get a 5-cent credit.

    New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says the fee is a common-sense approach to changing consumer behavior.

    “We don’t see this as a tax because if you bring a bag you’re not paying any money. You get a rebate. You actually get money,” Tittel said. “The only people who pay a tax are the litterbugs or the people who throw things out.”

    Sponsors of the measure say it would help reduce waste and protect marine life. They say the fees could generate more than $20 million in revenue that would be dedicated for the cleanup of Barnegat Bay.

    “Hurricane Sandy has done a lot of things, and one of the things is to put us in a position where we’re looking for a new source of revenue to help restore the Shore,” said Sen. Bob Smith, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. “This would be a perfect source of revenue.”

    Zack McCue with Clean Ocean Action sees the nickel fee as a way to help prevent environmental problems.

    “Each year, single-use disposal bags cause the destruction of millions of trees, use millions of barrels of oil to produce, and contribute to massive volumes of solid waste in landfills and along our beaches,” McCue said. “Disposable bags in the marine environment pose a dangerous threat to marine life particularly birds and sea turtles through ingestion and entanglement.”

    The retail industry opposes the measure because of concerns that it could drive up their costs.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal