New Jersey's proposed US$0.05 fee on paper, plastic grocery bags that advanced in state Senate Dec. 17 would add more costs to neediest of consumers, as food prices rise amid inflation, drought in Midwest, industry group says

HACKENSACK, New Jersey , December 26, 2012 () – A Trenton-based trade group that represents New Jersey supermarkets and food suppliers opposes the proposed 5-cent fee on paper and plastic grocery bags that advanced in the state Senate Monday, claiming it would be a burden on consumers.

The New Jersey Food Council, which has 400 members representing over 1,200 retail food stores, wholesalers, manufacturers and suppliers, is against the fee on disposable bags because it says it would add more costs to the neediest of consumers, as prices for food increase because of food inflation and the severe drought in the Midwest.

The bill, which passed the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and is headed for a vote in the full Senate, aims to cut down on the pollution from plastic and paper bags. By January 2015, retailers would not be allowed to use disposable bags unless they are recyclable.

The fee, which would start in 2014, largely would go toward cleaning the Barnegat Bay, though one cent would be returned to the retailer, who could be fined up to $500 for not complying.

"We prefer government stay out of the business of imposing any consumer fee on bags and penalizing our New Jersey customers," Linda Doherty, president of the trade group, said in an email.

There are no other statewide bans or fees on bags in the U.S., though some cities and counties have them. San Francisco implemented a 10-cent fee in October. Two years ago, Washington D.C. also imposed a 5-cent fee on bags. In May, Hawaii became the first state to have all its counties agree to a complete ban on plastic bags.

Doherty also said New Jersey food stores already have plastic bag recycling and reuse programs, which the council encourages.

"Public policy proposals should focus on increasing consumer awareness of plastic bag recycling and reuse initiatives and not penalizing consumers or creating the plastic bag police. We believe positive support of existing programs is a much more agreeable solution than punitive policies that hurt retailers and punish our N.J. customers," Doherty said.

Karen Meleta, spokeswoman for ShopRite, which is owned by Edison-based Wakefern Food Corp., also said customers should not be penalized.

"While we appreciate the spirit behind the proposed fees on plastic and paper bags, we hope to accomplish bag use reduction by encouraging the voluntary use of reusable bags rather than imposing a fee on customers that may be struggling during these economically challenging times," she said in a statement. "However, we will work with government officials to ensure that we are in complete compliance with any new legislation that is passed concerning fees on the use of plastic and paper bags."



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