Stafford Intros Plastic Bag Ban

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STAFFORD – Have your reusable shopping bags handy because plastic bags might be out, and environmentalism in.

Stafford Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance regulating and limiting the use of plastics in the township at a recent meeting.

This ordinance was reintroduced after months of honing it, following its first introduction back at the February 13 meeting. At that time, the proposal faced some resident opposition causing the council to rethink the timing of the ban. Mayor John Spodofora stated that the council wished to meet with local businesses on the matter.

“We took great care to contact all the businesses in the town, get feedback from them, and work with them to get the ordinance where we need it to be so it can work for everybody,” he said.

Back in February, Jersey Shore Online also reported that Spodofora and then-Councilman Steve Jeffries had a meeting on the ban. Jeffries, although he has since resigned, was the only council member who advocated against the proposed ban.

“This environmental stuff has been built to the point that it just keeps going, it’s never enough, it never stops,” he said, emphasizing that the ban exemplifies how he believes government bureaucracy has pervaded into our own individual lives.

However, despite this, months of research and impending state legislation have motivated the council to move on this action.

A new bill, A-3267/S-2600, proposing a 5 cent tax on single use plastic and paper bags was passed by the legislature on June 21 and is awaiting approval by Governor Phil Murphy.

According to Spodofora, the council wanted to impose its own solution to the problem with plastic to stay ahead, noting that the imposed tax “just doesn’t make any sense.”

“A tax on plastic bags does not solve any of the problems, does not solve the additional cost…and does not solve any of the environmental problems associated with plastic bags,” he said, calling the bill “totally ridiculous.”

While Spodofora noted that he understands state regulation can overrule that of municipalities, he hopes that Governor Murphy opts against signing this one into law.

“We will take the chance…hopefully greater minds will prevail, and the state will not pass this [law].”

The changes to the Stafford ordinance exist mainly in the exceptions to the rule. The proposal intends to limit plastic bag usage and encourage reusable canvas bag usage in the township, making it so that “no business or store shall provide any single-use plastic carryout bags…except as otherwise provided.”

These exceptions include:

  • Bags used for medical purposes
  • Bags for produce, meat, fish, poultry, frozen foods, flowers, deli, etc.
  • Bags used for live fish
  • Dry cleaner and door hanger bags
  • Bags sold in packages i.e. garbage liners
  • Bags used to deliver newspapers
  • Customers using food assistance programs

If the ordinance passes, then local businesses have up to 120 days following passage to use their existing supply of plastics before they must switch over.

At the meeting, the council received a show of support when resident Barbara Reynold spoke up in favor of the ban, saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Reynolds explained that she has taken it upon herself to attempt living 100 percent plastic free. She uses shampoo bars, bamboo tooth brushes, and even makes garbage bags from newspapers.

While this is not expected of everyone, a small step such as a limit on plastic bags is a change for good, she remarked.