At the legislative buzzer, New Jersey lawmakers voted to approve a measure that would ban packing peanuts and dictate the amount of recycled content that makes up many common plastic and glass products.

Now environmental advocates are urging Gov. Phil Murphy to sign the proposed law before time runs out. Because the measure was approved on the Jan. 10, the last day of the legislative session, Murphy has just a week to decide the bill's fate.

"This bill ultimately is about addressing our recycling and plastic crisis head-on," said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

The legislation aims to use less "virgin plastic" for new materials.

"The simple reality is we need producers to take responsibility to increase the amount of recycled content that they're using in their products," O'Malley said.

The proposed law states that after two years, rigid plastic containers will be required to contain at least 10% post-consumer recycled content (15% for bottles). Those percentages would have to increase to 50% over time. The bill sets content standards and benchmarks for glass containers, paper and plastic carryout bags, and plastic trash bags.

The bill also prohibits the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging, aka packing peanuts.

Groups say New Jersey's legislation, if it were to become law, would set the standard for recycling across the East Coast. There are similar laws in other states, including Connecticut, Maryland, and Maine.

"Recycling markets are already improving as a result of recycled content policies like this one," said Maura Toomey, with Clean Water Action New Jersey. "New Jersey is now perfectly positioned to serve as the regional and national leader for the next zero waste paradigm shift — one that prioritizes waste prevention, reuse, and redesign."

A ban on single-use plastic and paper bags takes effect in New Jersey on May 4. Shops and restaurants are currently prohibited from giving plastic straws to customers, unless they're requested.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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