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Plastic Bag Ban Studied By Environmental Commission

The township Environmental Commission plans to lobby the Township Council to institute a ban on single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam.

The township would join the growing list of New Jersey communities banning the use of single-use plastic bags under a proposal being prepared by the Environmental Commission.

The proposal, now in the discussion stage, would also ban the use of Styrofoam products, and would require retail stores to sell paper bags and some stores to provide reusable carry out bags for a nominal fee.

The Commission first considered the ban several months ago, but dropped it when told of Mayor Phil Kramer’s stated preference to wait for the then-expected state ban on those products.

But the current state Legislative session ended on January 13 without the state Assembly picking up the measure, which had already been approved by the state Senate.

According to published reports, the sticking point with Assembly leadership was the inclusion of paper bags in the ban.

In light of the state bill’s fate, Kramer said that he awaits the Commission’s input.

“That being said, it would take a strong argument to make me be against the ban for plastic,” Kramer said.

Now that the state will have to start from scratch on a new bill, if it’s picked up again in the upcoming session, Commission members felt this would be a good time for the Township Council to pass a ban. That’s because the last version of the proposed state bill grandfathered any local bans already in effect at the time of state passage.

“All the more reason for us to do it now,” said Cecile MacIvor, the Planning Board liaison to the Commission.

Township Councilman Ted Chase, the Council liaison to the Commission, used the state legislation as a starting point for his suggested ordinance.

Chase made what he called “minor” changes, however. Chase said he included the definition of a reusable plastic bag promoted by the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions – the bag is 10 mills thick – and suggested that grocery stores of at least 4,500 square feet offer reusable bags for free for two months before and after the proposed township ordinance would take effect, then offer them for sale for not more than $1. The state legislation mandated that grocery stores provide the free bags for two months after the law is effective.

“People should pay for them and be committed to them,” Commission member Stanislav Jaracz said of the reusable bags. “You take the groceries out and put them back in your car. There’s a basic cycle that people have to understand.”

“They’re more apt to use them if they pay for them,” MacIvor said.

Chase said that concerns that very low-income residents would not be able to purchase the bags could be alleviated by having them distributed for free through the Franklin Food Bank.

“I’m not sure how that would be funded,” he said.

The Commission also debated whether small plastic bags, such as those used in grovery stores for produce, should be included in the ban.

Johnson said she thought they should. She said alternatives exist to those bags, which he called “part of the problem.”

At the suggestion of Commission member Jessica Johnson, the members will study a ban adopted by the Hoboken City Council before deciding on what language they’d like to see in the township’s version.

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