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A new bill proposal in the New Jersey State Legislature, A5531, sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway (Burlington) would prohibit food service businesses from providing single-use plastic utensils and condiments to customers, except upon request. For venues that serve over 50 people—like school cafeterias—food providers would be required to offer “reusable, washable utensils” that would be rewashed and reused for other customers. Alternatively, vendors could distribute “eco-friendly” forks, spoons, and knives that are made of compostable material as long as they have been approve by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection or the U.S. EPA. Also, vendors could no longer offer “bundled utensil or condiment packages that contain more than one type of single-use plastic utensil or condiment, regardless of the nature of any customer request therefor.”
From the bill’s definition of “food service business”:
‘Food service business; means and includes a restaurant, café, food truck, vendor station, cafeteria, or any other facility or premises, or section or part thereof, including, but not limited to, a section or part of a grocery store, convenience store, hospital, school, sports arena, entertainment venue, or other similar facility or venue, where meals are prepared and served to customers for immediate consumption thereby on or off the premises, whether on a take-out, eat-in, drive-thru, or delivery basis.
If vendors don’t comply with the new restrictions they would be fined $1,000 for the first offense, $2,500 for the second offense and $5,000 for additional offenses.
The NJ Restaurant and Hospitality Association has some objections. The group’s representative, Amanda Stone-Maraldo, told Advance Media, “While we appreciate the intent of the bill, we have several concerns. Instead of another piece of legislation, it would be more sensible to educate the public and food establishment operators on the importance of sustainability and conservative use and distribution of single-use plastics.”
“Small business owners can hardly keep up with complying with new rules and regulations constantly streaming out of Trenton,” she added. “Our state needs to start supporting our small business owners instead of further restricting their ability to efficiently and successfully do business in New Jersey.”
Assemblyman Conaway has positioned the bill as part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s sustainability agenda.