New Jersey Initiates Ban on Plastic Bags

NJCU Resources for Environmental Issues

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Maryam Pervaiz

Walmart and ACME are among stores that gives away plastic bags due to states like New Jersey implementing a ban to have an environmental country.

Maryam Pervaiz, News Editor

Are you going grocery shopping anytime soon? Well, make sure you bring a tote bag with you because plastic bags have been canceled.

In early November, Gov. Phil Murphy signed S864 into law, which is the process of banning single-use plastic, polystyrene, straws, and paper bags in New Jersey. Businesses and stores are required to find alternatives for plastic-based materials.

The ban is projected to take place around the time of May 2022.

In a statement made on November 4th, Gov. Murphy said, “Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans. With today’s historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations.”

NJCU’s Associate Dean of Sciences, Scott Mittman was involved in the effort of the plastic ban in Jersey City and is a part of the Jersey City Environmental Commission.  Mittman said, “This is a definite step in the right direction. Aside from the incredible amount of fossil fuel used in plastic production, the world is now awash in plastic pollution and represents one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems.”

Allison Fitzgerald, a Biology professor teaching at NJCU said, “There were many local ordinances before, but to make the ban state-level enables officials and nonprofit groups to reach a wider audience, reduce plastic use at a greater scale and educate more citizens across the state…There is a great social and racial disparity with respect to access to environmentally friendly alternatives.”

NJCU students weigh in on this topic and explain why the plastic ban is better for our environment.

Junior Savanna Rueda, majoring in Early Childhood/Special Education and Psychology, reacted to this news and said, “I believe it’s a step in the right direction. I am not going to lie, when I saw the Metronome clock in NYC counting down the 7 years Earth has left, due to climate change, I was so scared for what’s to come. A pro to this clock that I thought to myself is ‘People will finally come to their senses. No more littering, no more of this plastic toxicity to the poor ocean animals.’ On the other hand, the con of all this is ‘It’s still happening… no one will pay attention until it’s too late’. This is an unfortunate reality of our world right now.”

Emaje Hall, a senior majoring in Environmental Science said, “I can see pushback from the small business community and large corporations because they would have to restructure their operations and such, but they knew it was coming for a while and while it would affect their bottom line, the ban addresses a larger issue. Plastic bag pollution is a problem that needed to be addressed years ago. If it wasn’t for certain developing countries like Kenya or in Southeast Asia accepting our waste, then the US would be screwed. A ban on plastic bags at least says that we acknowledge the problem and are willing to do something about it.”

Plastic bag pollution is a problem that needed to be addressed years ago.”

— Emaje Hall

The Harm on the Environment 

How do plastic bags harm the environment, you may ask?

When throwing plastic bags in the trash, their final destination is the landfill. From there, the plastic bags or polystyrene do not tend to break down and therefore, it is non-biodegradable. Due to this, the plastic bags are left there for a very long time and can cause pollution, and most of the time, it ends up in the ocean where aquatic species live.

Environment America says studies show plastic bits are found in 86 percent of sea turtles, 44 percent of seabird species, and 43 percent of all marine mammals. These aquatic species recognize plastic or related material as food and can easily digest it.

Mittman further explains the effects of plastic bags on the environment, “On an annual basis, the world produces some 5 trillion plastic bags. It is well-recognized that manufacturing these bags requires cancer-causing compounds such as benzene and vinyl hydrochloride, and the toxic by-products of their manufacture pollute our air, water, and soil.”

What is NJCU Doing to Help? 

The University offers various types of sustainable resources for students and techniques to become environmentally friendly.

As stated on NJCU’s website, the university has taken the initiative to reduce water waste and add solar power to decrease energy use and pollution. As well as becoming LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified (which basically says that the college is efficient by creating green buildings) and offering sustainability courses and research opportunities for students.

Another sustainability resource to reach out to can be the Environmental Club at NJCU. It is a student-based initiative to potentially promote eco-friendly techniques as well as providing outreach and education and volunteerism. The Environmental Club at NJCU can be contacted via Instagram messages (@njcu.enviroclub) or email at [email protected]

Regarding environmental resources, Mittman said, “I think it is noteworthy to mention that NJCU has a new administrative-level Sustainability Council (formed just before the arrival of the pandemic) and should be taken as a strong indicator of NJCU’s interest in making a difference in how we respect the environment.”

Suggestions for NJCU’s Sustainability Path 

Students and faculty respond to the NJCU resources and what the university can do to better the path of creating a healthy environment.

Hall, the senior, encourages the use of reusable water bottles. He said, “Besides using biodegradable or non-plastic products at the dining areas, reducing plastic water bottle use is good too. We could install more water fountains with the best filters and management around to encourage reusable water bottle use.”

He continued with more of his ideas and said, “Also, perhaps creating student design competitions for sustainable products, hosting exciting presentations by those that can teach us how to be more environmentally conscious, and holding public discussions at the university about these sort of issues would be nice to see. Having a public dialogue would be great too. Organizations that come to mind are NOAA, the Biomimicry Institute, Sustainable Jersey City, landscape architecture firms, and the state or local government.”

Fitzgerald said that having student input on recycling and environmental alternatives is an important part of our future.

There are plenty of low-cost alternatives we can implement that will make big changes, but the students also need to reach their peers and incite change among them.”

— Allison Fitzgerald

She continued, “They are the ones who will drive the changes we need, and I think the campus should listen to them and be open to more changes. There are plenty of low-cost alternatives we can implement that will make big changes, but the students also need to reach their peers and incite change among them. I see plenty of students walking around campus with plastic cups and straws, as well as take out containers and coffee cups!”

Rueda, the junior said, “I think NJCU can start implementing the use of these reusable bags. Though there are few students on campus due to the ongoing pandemic, students who are attending classes on campus and who dorm can start taking this one small step! Rather than waiting until the actual ban itself is placed into effect, we need to start NOW!”