A year after New Jersey's ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect, efforts are underway to ban plastic knives, forks and spoons.

The New Jersey Legislature is now considering a bill (A5331) that would ban businesses from automatically handing out single use plastic utensils.

If passed and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, the ban would apply to take-out orders, restaurants and food trucks. It would also apply to sports and entertainment venues and New Jersey schools.

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Under the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, customers could make a specific request for plastic utensils. Only then could they be provided.

The bill would also apply to single use condiment packets, like ketchup, mustard and soy sauce.

No food service business operating in the State will be authorized to provide single-use plastic utensils or condiments to any customer, except upon, and in accordance with, the express request of that customer - Assembly Bill A5331

Restaurants with in-house dining capacity of 50 or more would not be allowed to use any plastic utensils. Under the bill they are required to provide "reusable, washable utensils."

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Businesses that violate the ban would be subject to heavy fines.

"Any covered food service business that violates the provisions of section 2 of this act," the bill reads, "Shall be liable to a civil penalty of $1,000 for the first offense, $2,500 for the second offense, and $5,000 for the third and each subsequent offense. Each day on which a violation occurs shall constitute a separate and distinct offense."

Money collected from the fines would be earmarked for a fund to help local towns with litter removal as well as for education and enforcement initiatives, according to the bill.

Condemnation of the bill was swift from the NJ Restaurant and Hospitality Association. The group told NJ.com they have several concerns and small businesses have a hard enough time keeping up with all the new regulations coming from Trenton. "Our state needs to start supporting our small business owners," the group said in a statement.

New York City recently passed a similar ban, but it will not go into effect until later this year.

To be enacted, the bill would have to clear both houses of the legislature and then be signed into law by Murphy.

Murphy has been supportive of so-called "sustainability goals," but has not commenting on this specific legislation.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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