SENATE, No. 2776






      The Senate Environment and Energy Committee favorably reports a committee substitute for Senate Bill No. 2776.

      The committee substitute would prohibit a store or food service business from providing carryout bags made of plastic film, polystyrene foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws.  It would also require a store to assess a fee on paper carryout bags.

      Specifically, under the substitute, no food store or food service business would be permitted to provide a carryout bag made of plastic film to a customer.  “Plastic film” is defined in the substitute as any non-woven, flexible plastic that is less than 10 mils thick.  “Carryout bag” is defined as a bag that is provided by a store or food service business to a customer at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting groceries, prepared foods, or retail goods. Nothing in the substitute would prohibit the provision to a customer of:  (1) a non-handled bag made of plastic film used to separate and prevent a food item from damaging or contaminating another item; (2) a bag made of plastic film used to contain an unwrapped food item; or (3) a durable, handled carryout bag made from any natural or synthetic material other than plastic film, including woven or nonwoven plastic or cloth, that is at least 10 mils thick, and that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.

      The substitute would also prohibit a person from selling or offering for sale any polystyrene foam food service product, and prohibit a food service business from selling or providing any food in a polystyrene foam food service product.  The substitute would provide an exemption from this prohibition for a period of one year after the effective date of the provision for:  (1) disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons, when required and used for thick drinks; (2) portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring a lid; and (3) meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be permitted to extend the exemptions for additional periods of up to one year if it determines that there is no cost-effective and readily available alternative.

      The DEP may also, upon written application by a person or food service business, waive the prohibition on a polystyrene foam food service product for a period of up to one year if:  (1) there is no feasible and commercially available alternative for the specific polystyrene foam food service product; or (2) the person or food service business has less than $500,000 in gross annual income and there is no reasonably affordable, commercially-available alternative to a polystyrene foam food service product.  The DEP would be permitted to extend any waiver it grants for additional periods of up to one year.

      The substitute would prohibit a food service business from selling or providing a single-use plastic straw to a customer.  However, a food service business would be permitted to provide, upon request, a single-use plastic straw to a person that requires one due to a disability or medical condition.

      Under the substitute, each operator of a store would be required to impose a fee of at least $0.10 on the customer for each paper bag that is provided as a carryout bag to the customer.  Each operator would be required to remit $0.05 of the fee to the Director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, and retain the remaining amount.  The director would be permitted to use up to one percent of the revenues collected to defray the costs of administration.  The director would deposit the remainder of the revenue into the “Plastic Pollution Prevention Fund,” established in the substitute. 

      Moneys in the “Plastic Pollution Prevention Fund” would be used by the DEP to establish:  (1) programs, grants, and other incentives to facilitate the development of the State’s plastics recycling industry, including the establishment of one or more plastics recycling facilities; and (2) a public education and outreach program to inform the public about the environmental impact of single-use plastics and encourage the use of reusable alternatives to single-use plastics.  The DEP would be required to develop guidelines to prioritize the disbursement of monies from the fund.

      The substitute would supersede and preempt municipal and county rules, regulations, codes, and ordinances concerning the regulation or prohibition of carryout bags, polystyrene foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws, or fees charged for those items.

      Any person who violates any provision of the substitute would be subject to a penalty of up to $500 for a first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense, and up to $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense.  If the violation is of a continuing nature, each day during which it continues would constitute an additional and separate offense.  The DEP, a municipality, and any entity certified pursuant to the “County Environmental Health Act” would have the authority to enforce the provisions of the substitute.  Any penalties collected would be remitted to the director for deposit into the “Plastic Pollution Prevention Fund.”

      The substitute would establish the Plastics Advisory Council in the DEP to monitor the implementation of the substitute, and evaluate its effectiveness in reducing single-use plastics and plastic waste in the State.  The substitute would also require the DEP to submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature containing recommendations for additional measures the State can take, including administrative or legislative action, to reduce single-use plastics and plastic waste.  Finally, the Department of State, in consultation with the DEP, would be required to establish a program to assist businesses in complying with the provisions of the substitute.