New Jersey moves to restrict plastic utensils and ban single use condiment packages

TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill in Trenton that seeks to limit the use of plastic utensils at restaurants, food trucks, and other eateries throughout the Garden State.

First, they came for your plastic straws. Then they came for your plastic bags. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is even coming for your gasoline-powered cars. Now, state legislators are coming after your plastic cutlery.

The bill, sponsored by Burlington County legislator Herb Conway would prohibit food service businesses in the state from providing customers with access to single-use plastic utensils or condiments, except in certain limited cases. 

Those who be banned from voluntarily handing out sporks, forks, spoons and knives would be grocery stores, convenience stores, hospitals, schools, sports arenas, entertainment venues, or other similar facilities or venues, 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. 

Under the bill, 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.

Food service businesses that have on-site seating capacity for 50 or more customers will be required to provide its on-site customers with easy access to reusable, washable utensils that may be used thereby while consuming meals on the premises and which are to be returned to the food service business, upon completion of the on-site meal, for the purposes of cleaning and reuse.  

Many New Jersey restaurants already ask customers if they want utensils, due to rising costs of food and petroleum-based products. Cutting the complimentary plastic cutlery has been a voluntary measure many state eateries already do. Now, Conway wants to make it illegal to voluntarily provide single-use cutlery.

The bill will also ban bundled plastic cutlery and single use condiments. 

“A food service business would also be prohibited from creating, acquiring, or providing customers with 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,” the bill states.

 There will be stiff fines for restaurants that defy the state ban.

“Any food service business that violates the bill’s provisions would 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, to be collected through a summary proceeding, and each day on which a violation occurs would constitute a separate and distinct offense,” the bill reads.

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