STAFFORD – It’s BYOB in Stafford Township these days: Bring Your Own Bag.
With the recent implementation of the plastic bag ban in Stafford Township, local shoppers noticed a major change at some of their usual shopping spots. As of Dec. 6, all Stafford businesses were rid of their plastic bags, most offering reusable alternatives to shoppers at a small fee.
Mayor John Spodofora has been preaching “no plastic bags” from the dais for months now. On August 7, the Stafford Township Council unanimously approved the ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags by township businesses. Since the ordinance became official, township businesses had 120 days to use up their plastic bag stores.
Dec. 6 became the official cut off point for the use of plastic bags in town.
The ordinance does not ban all plastic, but rather, focuses on banning those types that are single-use and avoidable. Exceptions include plastics such as bags used for medical purposes, bags for produce, meat, fish, poultry, frozen foods, bags used for live fish, bags used to deliver newspapers, dry cleaner or door-hanger garment bags, garbage can liners, and bags used to deliver food items to customers in a food assistance program.
The ordinance also stipulates that businesses not in compliance could face fines up to $500.
While some environmentally conscience residents had their canvas bags at the ready, others were shocked to find out they had to pay for reusable bags. Spodofora noted that he has only received one complaint from a Wawa customer via email so far, but he is sure he will see more complaints pass through his office.
For those residents interesting in stocking up on reusable bags, a few local businesses will be selling them. Some other retailers have just chosen to switch to paper over plastic including Michael’s, Staples, Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.
PetSmart is offering store-brand canvas bags for $1.99 each, but no paper bags will be available. AC Moore is offering small canvas bags for 99 cents each in addition to paper bags.
ShopRite is offering a more heavy-duty, reusable plastic bag for 10 cents, the traditional paper bags at no additional cost, and canvas bags available for purchase. Acme is providing a similar alternative; a thicker, plastic reusable option available for 10 cents each.
Spodofora noted that he was not happy to see that ShopRite was charging a fee for their bags, an alternative he does not even consider to fall under the parameters of “reusable.”
According to the ordinance, a “reusable bag” is “a bag that is designed and manufactured to withstand repeated uses over a period of time, is machine washable or made from a material that can be cleaned and disinfected regularly, has a minimum of 75 uses, and is capable of carrying a minimum of 18 pounds.”
“I personally don’t think they will last 75 uses, but I can’t prove that,” he added.
While the ordinance doesn’t specify that retailers can’t charge for the bags, Spodofora was disappointed to see that some were doing so.
The plastic bag ban was “never meant for a store to make a profit,” he said. “It’s wrong.”
Residents still in possession of single-use plastic bags can recycle them at any local supermarket in the county, according to Director of the Ocean County Department of Solid Waste, Ernest Kuhlwein. These bags will be recycled for plastic lumber, he added.
Mayor-elect Gregory Myhre is interested to hear from residents and local businesses how they feel about the ban.
“It is important to take steps to curb pollution and to protect our marine environment, however, the beneficial effects of this ban, if there are any, will be difficult to measure,” said Myhre.
Myhre has been opposed to any kind of ban “since I believe people should be free to make their own decisions, and government intrusion into private business should be limited.”
However, he acquiesces “the situation has changed since single-use plastic bags are now banned in Stafford Township and people have made investments to deal with the new ordinance.”
Whether Myhre will make moves to keep the ban or get rid of it come the new year, is not yet known.