Commentary on the proposed bill that would ban plastic utensils in NJ.

Well, that’s it. In the immortal words of George Costanza, “Alright, that’s it for me!”

NJ Food Supply is officially off the enviro wagon. What sounded nice a few years ago has turned into something more akin to a Hungry Hungry Hippo game, with legislators scrambling to gobble up anything they can use to virtue-signal that they “care” about the environment.

Bill A5332, sponsored by Burlington-based Assemblyman Herb Conaway, will ban plastic utensils, plastic utensil bundles, and single-use packets of condiments. It also stipulates that businesses with a seating capacity of 50+ would be required to use reusable utensils. The utensils will only be provided if they are expressly requested by the customer.

Penalties for violations start with $1,000 for the first offense, $2,500 for the second, and $5,000 for the third and subsequent offences. That’s even stiffer than the penalty structure for the plastic bag ban, which starts with just a warning, moves to $1,000 for the second offense, and ends at $5,000.

Enough is Enough

Why is the first move usually compulsion? Why do we go straight to legislation to fix such minor problems? Members of government are just as capable of pursuing interests through voluntary initiatives, such as helping to provide incentives to entrepreneurs or working with existing organizations to boost their output. In this way, you mastermind against a problem, rather than abruptly disrupting the status quo.

Why? Because to fill out a petition, campaign, and run for election is vastly easier than starting a business that tackles such hard problems as creating innovative, original products. It’s far easier than finding other innovative and enterprising people with whom you can mastermind. And it’s far less risky.

I would have thought we were starting to learn from the current energy situation. What looked virtuous and honorable blew up in everyone’s face when the age-old war and disease reared their ugly heads. It immediately became apparent that keeping dirty energy sources around WHILE we look for alternatives is much more effective than forcing a stop.

There are no cost-effective solutions for plastic utensils, just like there are no cost-effective solutions for styrofoam cups. Sure, there are paper cups, but they are greatly more expensive. As I pointed out in an article on that very ban, 1,000 8oz. foam cups cost $29.50, while 500 8oz. paper cups cost $90.20. That’s a 206% increase for half the amount of product!!

At a point in time when restaurants are regaining their footing, when they’re dealing with high labor, high rent, and high food costs, why…why would you choose to hurt them further? Why would you further limit their ability to recover and sustain business?

On behalf of the food businesses and restaurants in the state of New Jersey, I urge you, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, to pursue a different path. See your term through to the end, found a startup that solves the plastic utensils problem, and work at it obsessively. This is America, after all. We do much better when we tackle problems through enterprise, not through compulsion.