Environmental awareness has become a hot topic within the local political sphere. In June 2018, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that would require a 5 cent charge for each single-use plastic bag distributed in stores, which Governor Phil Murphy vetoed out of concern that the ban would not be strong enough to persuade citizens to stop using plastic bags.
Recently, however, many local governments in the state have passed laws or have proposed rules to implement plastic bag bans. But how effective are they?
Jersey City is one of the cities that has implemented a ban through a law that was passed this past June. But charging a fee for a plastic bag is still allowed in retail stores if you do not carry one of your own. If a store fails to comply with the new ban, it can be fined $100 per infraction, according to section 263-8 of the law.
“I would say the ban is ineffective,” says student Moises Figueroa. “It is called a ‘plastic bag ban,’ so should they not ban them everywhere around the area completely?”
Since it is used in everything from home products to packaging, plastic is one of the leading causes of environmental pollution. People are often encouraged to recycle plastic, but most of it is made out of mixed materials, especially petroleum oil, a fossil fuel.
According to National Geographic, only about 9 percent of all plastic is recycled. The other 91 percent, meanwhile, can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. During the decomposition process, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere and is trapped inside, contributing to climate change.
The total amount of plastic that is disposed of is unknown, but the majority of it ends up in oceans and landfills, causing physical harm to animals and fish and even potentially endangering their species in the long-term.
Despite the costs of inaction, some may find it quite difficult to adapt to the ban.
“I do think plastic is problematic but it’s hard to get out of the habit of using plastic bags, especially if you’ve used them all the time for things like garbage or for convenience,” remarks student Luis Lopez. “Changing your lifestyle is not easy.”
Despite being aware of environmental pollution and climate change for decades, many people remain cynical towards whether there will be major positive change that will save the planet. Still, there are optimistic views towards the ban and how it can help the environment.
“I do think it is a good thing that there is a plastic bag ban. It sends a message for people to overtime realize why plastic is bad,” student Karlissa Giron states. “My mom and I bring our own non-plastic bags or use brown bags when we go shopping. People will wake up eventually.”