Many consumers support New Jersey proposal to ban plastic bags

Derron Farmer sees plastic bags  as a necessary evil. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

Derron Farmer sees plastic bags as a necessary evil. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

Last week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill that would have charged shopper 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag they use.

The reason: It didn’t do enough to tackle the environmental and infrastructure problems “created by overreliance on plastic bags.”

“While well intentioned, the approach reflected in this bill strikes me as incomplete and insufficient,” Murphy told lawmakers in a veto statement.

For now, that leaves open the possibility that New Jersey will follow in California’s footsteps and completely ban plastic carryout bags.

Under a measure recently introduced by state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, the head of the Senate Environmental Committee, plastic straws and plastic-foam containers would also be off-limits to customers. Violators would be fined up to $5,000 for each offense.

What do voters in the Garden State think of the idea?

On Labor Day, at the Wegmans supermarket in Cherry Hill, residents loading their cars with groceries said they’d be fine if the plastic bags many were using disappeared.

“It would be a little bit annoying, but it’s a good idea,” said Edgar Renaud.

Like Murphy, Renaud said it would be good for the environment.

He wasn’t alone.

“Our world is polluted, and it’s scary for our children and grandchildren,” said Maureen Fitzgerald, who stopped in to get ingredients for the cupcakes she’s making for a baby shower.

“Our landfills are filled with plastic diapers and plastic bottles, and, at some point, we have to stop. This is one small thing.”

Paula Jones thinks banning plastic bags is the right thing to do. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY)

Standing in the parking lot in front of Save-A-Lot in Pennsauken, near Camden, Paula Jones agreed. She said she’s tired of seeing creatures on TV struggling for their lives because of a plastic bag that made its way into the water.

“I’m like on edge when I’m watching somebody rescue them and hoping that they save them in time,” said Jones.

Collingswood resident Pat Curtis was a bit more ambivalent about the idea as she paused in front of Wegmans. She said she knows cutting down on plastic bags would be better for the environment, but right now she reuses them to dispose of her grandson’s diapers and to pick up after her dog.

“I know I really shouldn’t be using them, and once my youngest grandson is out of diapers, I won’t be using the plastic bags anymore,” said Curtis.

If the thin plastic bags disappear, she said she’ll simply go back to bringing her own bags to the market.

Save-A-Lot shopper Derron Farmer is not that kind of guy. He said he understands the environmental concerns, but he likened the bags to cars — a necessary evil, even if they’re not great for the environment.

“Since I’ve been a child, you’ve always got your bags from the grocery store. I don’t see why that would change. It’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said Farmer.

And he’s got another bone to pick with the proposed ban.

“In the City of Camden, we don’t have a full-running grocery store. We don’t have a ShopRite or an Acme. You took the Pathmark away. Now you want to take the bags away,” he said. “It’s hard enough to come out and get the food as in. Now you want to make it harder for us to get the food out the store.”

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