Pennington Council adopts ordinance phasing out single-use carryout bags

Pennington is joining more than 30 New Jersey municipalities in banning single-use plastic carryout bags.

Pennington council members voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance on May 4; Council President Catherine Chandler and council members Glen Griffiths, Charles Marciante, Elizabeth Semple, Beverly Mills and Deborah Gnatt voted “yes” in favor of the measure.

“Single-use plastic bags have a litany of harms for the environment. These can ultimately gum up our sewer service areas and impact our recycling facilities,” said Mike Pisauro, policy director at the Watershed Institute, who urged the the ordinance passage during the meeting. “This ordinance has a long education period, which I think is appropriate.”

After the adoption, Pennington will enter into an education period that would last for six months. The borough would develop an education and outreach program to encourage the transition from single-use plastic carryout bags to alternatives including reusable bags. The program would be implemented by the Environmental Commission.

According to the Pennington Council, Pennington is working to promote the use of reusable carry out bags and recyclable paper bags at businesses and stores in the borough.

In Hopewell Valley, Hopewell Borough outlawed single-use plastic carryout bags in 2018. The ordinance approved by the Hopewell Borough Council took effect on April 22 and allows stores to hand out recyclable paper bags or provide reusable bags to customers for free or for a small charge.

Asbury Park, Red Bank, Jersey City, Hoboken, Teaneck, Point Pleasant Beach, Paramus, Glen Rock, Maplewood and Belmar are among the municipalities that have banned single-use plastic bags, so far.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey state legislature failed to pass a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags, paper bags and polystyrene and Styrofoam takeout food containers.

The bill (S2776), which had passed in Senate and stalled in the Assembly, banned stores from handing out single-use plastic bags and paper bags to all customers. Stores are defined as grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores, drug stores and retail establishments of at least 1,000 square feet and that provide carryout bags to customers.

Food service businesses, which include restaurants, cafes, delicatessens, coffee shops, grocery stores, vending trucks or carts, food trucks and movie theaters, would not have been able to use Styrofoam or polystyrene containers for takeout food. They would not provide plastic straws, unless a customer requests it because of a disability or medical condition, if the bill had been passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.