Environmental Groups Support 54 NJ Towns in Retaining their Local Plastic Bag Ordinances
TODAY, NJ – NJ’s leading environmental groups are reaching out to support and help NJ’s 54 mayors and towns defend their single use plastics bag bans in response to bullying and misinformation campaign by Plastics industry and New Jersey Food Council (NJFC). Signatories to the letter of support (see attached) for the existing local ordinances included Judith Enck, President, Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator, Clean Ocean Action, Clean Water Action, NJ Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, and Save Barnegat Bay.
While the outreach continues, the letter dated yesterday has already received an immediate and favorable response, including the mayors of Asbury Park, Beach Haven, Hoboken, Long Branch, Maplewood, Point Pleasant Beach and South Orange all replying that their ban would stay in place.
We understand these are unprecedented times and the safety of your residents from COVI-19 is critical. Everyone must be vigilant in employing COVID-19 safety practices including social distancing protocols and fewer touches. But this does not mean that we must abandon the use of reusable bags when we go to the store.
“There is no evidence that reusable bags are a Covid-19 risk. This has not stopped the plastics industry from attempting to exploit this serious health crisis. Consumers are urged to wash their reusable bags and if they are able, pack their own groceries at the store. Addressing Covid-19 is the top priority for all elected officials. Debating bag policy is a distraction that takes time away from legitimate Covid-19 issues,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and President of Beyond Plastics.
The New Jersey Food Council (NJFC) claims that Governor Murphy’s Executive Orders 103 and 104 suggests that towns should stop enforcing your plastic bag law. “Let no one be fooled, the plastics industry is attempting to exploit this health crisis to permanently reverse the tidal wave of towns and states that are banning single use plastics,” stated Amy Goldsmith, NJ State Director, Clean Water Action. ”Kudos to the NJ towns that are having none of it. We look forward to the NJ legislature doing the same in the future.”
“We are so proud of the many towns that have passed ordinances to reduce single use plastics including bags and those working to do so. This significant environmental awareness and progress must continue, and we stand ready to help support all towns to move forward and reduce these plastics which cause so much environmental harm,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action.
“The Plastic Industry Association and some of their allies like the NJFC have fought these plastic bag bans from the outset and opposed real reusable bags all along,” explained Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Now, they are deliberately using our health emergency as a cover to try to block these bans. Plastic bags are just as bad and according to studies, the virus could just as easily spread on plastic bags. What the Plastic Industry and NJFC are saying is a shame. We are glad that The Borough of Bradley Beach and others decided not to entertain the request in the NJFC’s letter and they left their single-use plastic bag ban law in effect.”
While a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates the virus can live up to three days on plastic, it does not mean that single use plastic bags are the answer. Common sense tells us all that those who wash and bring their own bags to the store and then bag their own groceries expose themselves to fewer surfaces touched by others. Whereas, single use plastic bags are touched by store cashiers who touch every item that goes into your bag along with all the items that went into other customers’ bags who may or may not be infected with COVID-19.
“Fighting COVID-19 is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our state and country. This is the moment for more testing and social distancing — not going after New Jersey towns that have banned single-use plastic bags. Bringing reusable bags and bagging your own groceries can help to reduce vectors of contamination. Stores should allow people to continue to bring their own reusable bags and have shoppers bag their own groceries as a COVID-19 safety measure,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.
People have long been fed up with plastic pollution filling up their storm drains and threatening their drinking water. Towns have long been responsive to these concerns by passing local ordinances at the same time the NJ legislature is considering a state-wide policy. “We urge towns, stores and consumers to stand tall,” concluded Britta Wenzel, Executive Director of Save Barnegat Bay. “What is best for the environment, protecting store employees and addressing the spread of COVID-19 is to continue to employ social distancing protocols, fewer touches, and maintaining local single use bag policies and timelines.”Plastics municipal letter 3.31.2020