Ban Of Single-Use Plastic, Paper Bags Discussed By Township Council

Township Councilman Ted Chase displays a reusable bag that could be substituted for single-use paper or plastic bags.

A township ban on single-use plastic and paper bags, Styrofoam food containers and single-use straws – Somerset County’s first, if enacted – was the subject of a more than two-hour discussion at the January 28 Township Council meeting.

At the heart of the discussion was a draft ordinance prepared by Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1).

Chase said there were still some details to work out in the ordinance, such as how it would be enforced.

The draft calls for the Somerset county Health Department to enforce the ban, but, Chase said, “they may not want to do that.”

The draft ordinance would prohibit retail and food stores from providing or selling single-use plastic carryout bags to customers starting January 1, 2021. Grocery stores occupying more than 4,500 square feet would also be prohibited from providing customers with single-use plastic bags on that date.

Also starting January 1, 2021, food businesses would be allowed to give customers single-use plastic straws only upon their request.

Starting on January 1, 2022, no food service business in the township would be allowed to provide food in a polystyrene foam product, under the draft ordinance.

The draft ordinance exempts for two years the following products: polystyrene foam soda spoons when used for thick beverages, portion cups of two ounces or less, and trays for raw meat and fish.

The draft ordinance also requires the township to begin an education program for businesses no later than six months after the ordinance takes effect, which would be 20 days after final passage.

The draft ordinance was met with approval by the Council.

“The idea is to get everybody to use a reusable bag, cutting down both litter and the use of natural resources,” Chase said.

He said he would be amenable to changes Council members may want to make in the final ordinance.

Mayor Phil Kramer said he initially wanted to hold off on passing a township ban because the state Legislature was working on a statewide ban. When that fell through at the end of the last legislative session, he said, “I said … I can’t count on them passing this bill, I thought it was time.”

Kramer said the Council would have to be careful in not adopting an ordinance that would have unintended consequences, such as driving people to use bags made of thicker plastic than what is used in single-use bags.

“”I am a tree-hugger, but I don’t want to do it the wrong way,” he said.

Councilman Will Galtieri (D-Ward 2) said his company for years has been recycling, so it’s now a part of his life.

“We have to take into account everybody’s needs,” he said. “We’ll figure it out, it may take a little bit of time. But this is something that we definitely have to start looking for.”

“Franklin is the future and we are going in the right direction with this,” said Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large).

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