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Gov. Murphy Signs Recycled Content for Plastics Bill Into Law

Trenton – Amidst a flurry of bills, Gov. Murphy signed into law legislation to increase the recycled content of plastics and other products gradually to up to 50% recycled content. The bill would require increasing post-consumer recycled content in a variety of packaging products including plastic containers, plastic beverage containers, plastic & paper bags, plastic trash bags & glass containers. On Monday, the New Jersey Assembly voted 48-23-3 and the New Jersey Senate voted 22-15 to approve the Recycled Content bill (S2515/A4676) on the last day of the legislative session

Environmental advocates across the state applauded the Governor’s signature and the previous work of the Legislature to pass the bill on the last day of session, especially the leadership of the Senate prime sponsor, Senate Environment Chair Bob Smith. The bill would require post-consumer recycled content in a variety of packaging products including:

  • After two years, rigid plastic containers and bottles will be required to respectively meet 10% and 15% post-consumer recycled content and increase that percentage until reaching 50%.
  • Sets content standards and benchmarks for glass containers, paper and plastic carryout bags, and plastic trash bags. 
  • Ban foam plastic packing peanuts.

“Today’s signing of the recycled content bill into law by Governor Murphy shows that New Jersey continues to be a leader in solutions to address the plastic pollution plague and crisis. This recycled content bill is a vital step toward a cleaner, healthier future. This bill will help reduce plastic consumption and pollution of our waterways and ocean,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action. “We thank the Governor for signing the bill and the bill’s champion, NJ Senator Bob Smith, the bill’s sponsors, and the members of the Assembly and Senate who supported the bill and worked to pass this law.”

The legislation’s implementation will begin in two years and go through NJDEP rulemaking. The bill received a broad set of support from the environmental community, but also from recyclers from across the state, recycling companies and global bottling companies.

“This is a huge step forward for New Jersey and the East Coast as we now have one more best-in-nation policy for addressing the plastic pollution crisis. This law will help reduce the demand for fossil fuel-derived virgin plastics and give the recycling industry a much-needed boost. Thank you to the bill’s sponsors as well as all the advocates that helped get this bill on Governor Murphy’s desk today,” said Maura Toomey, NJ Zero Waste Organizer, Clean Water Action.

The necessity for the bill has been sparked by the abysmal rate of plastics recycling, which hovers around 9%, the increasing challenges to create profitable recycling markets after China stopped taking unclean recycling waste streams, and the ongoing impacts of plastics pollution on New Jersey’s environment.

“New Jersey faces a plastic pollution crisis for our communities, the Shore, and our parks. We can’t recycle our way out of this crisis and this recycled content bill will set a national standard to moving towards using more recycled content – and not virgin plastic – for plastics containers. We thank Gov. Murphy for signing this legislation and supporting initiatives to reduce plastic pollution and thank legislative leadership and Sen. Bob Smith for getting this bill over the finish line,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey.

In fall 2020, roughly 75% of the 185,000 pieces of trash picked up the Jersey Shore by volunteers with Clean Ocean Action were plastics and there are 165 million plastic particles in the NJ Harbor Estuary.

“Plastic pollution is a huge problem in our state especially for our waterways. The recycled content law is a major step forward in dealing with this problem. The main objective of the plastic content recycling law  is to reduce the production of virgin plastic, increase the use of recycled content, enhance the recycled plastics market and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of packaging,” said Anjuli Ramos- Busot, Director of the Sierra Club, NJ Chapter. “The Sierra Club, New Jersey Chapter thanks Governor Murphy, and the sponsors and supporters of this law. We applaud their efforts for recognizing the plastic waste urgency and helping the state tackle its plastic waste problem.”

This bill is essential to support recycling markets so that virgin single-use plastics can be eliminated from the waste stream, keeping them out of landfills, incinerators, and off the Jersey Shore.

“The beaches of NJ are facing a plastic pollution crisis that the members and volunteers of Surfrider Foundation see every day,” said John Weber, Mid Atlantic Regional Manager for the Surfrider Foundation. “With this new law, more plastic will get recycled, more will get turned into consumer packaging, and less will end up in our oceans, waves, and beaches.”

There are similar laws in other East Coast states including Connecticut, Maryland, and Maine. Other states are considering similar legislation and will follow New Jersey’s lead as they did with the plastic carryout bag ban. A New Jersey recycled content law will set the recycling standard for the East Coast.

“It’s nice to see New Jersey leading the way in recycling again. The Jersey Shore and Barnegat Bay will be cleaner places to visit if recycling gets backs on track. Kudos to Governor Murphy and legislators for taking a step in the right direction,” said Britta Forsberg, Executive Director, Save Barnegat Bay.

Corporate pledges to use recycled materials aren’t enough, according to the environmental groups working to drive support for the bill over the past two years.

“I applaud Governor Murphy for signing this sweeping recycling bill into law.  As a coastal state, New Jersey has a lot at stake in stemming the tide of plastic pollution.  It is now important to turn toward implementation and ensure that companies fully comply with this pathbreaking new law,” said Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator.

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