Newtown Township EAC Releases a Draft Ordinance Banning Single-Use Plastics
The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) has drafted a single-use plastics ban ordinance, which was discussed at its April 3, 2023, public meeting, That meeting included a presentation by PennEnvironment and comments from local businesses, including McCaffrey’s Markets. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags, expanded polystyrene food service products, single-use plastic straws, and single-use plastic utensils by retail establishments within the Township.
After the EAC meeting, on April 18, 2023, I launched an online survey that asked ne simple question: Do you think a BAN of single-use plastics imposed upon local Newtown Township businesses is a good idea? See the results to-date below, including comments from respondents. Meanwhile, I invite you to take the survey if you have not already done so...
In 2021, the EAC sponsored a survey of local businesses to better understand how they use single-use plastic items such as bags and carry-out containers. An overwhelming majority of respondents said they were concerned about the environmental impact of single-use plastics.
In April 2022, Newtown Township passed a resolution to voluntarily reduce the distribution of single-use plastics. According to the EAC, several small businesses were receptive and switched to environmentally friendly, reusable or recyclable bags and products. However, many of larger businesses have not been receptive and stated that they would comply only if there was a mandatory ordinance. Without their participation, the Newtown EAC concluded that the voluntary resolution had been ineffective in getting residents to switch to reusable bags.
Frequently Asked Q&A
Below is a summary of the ordinance in the form of FAQs (frequently-asked questions and answers). These may be different than the FAQs presented by the EAC on April 3. Download the draft ordinance.
Why is This Ordinance Needed?
The main purpose of the ordinance is to curb litter on the streets, in the parks, and in the trees, protect the local streams, rivers, waterways and other aquatic environments, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce solid waste generation, promote the use of reusable, compostable, and recyclable materials within the Township, and to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the Township.
To Whom Does This Ordinance Apply?
This ordinance would apply to the numerous commercial establishments within the Township which provide single-use plastic bags, “expanded polystyrene” food service products (typically used for selling, providing, or transporting food or beverages), single-use plastic straws and single-use plastic utensils to their customers.
“Retail Establishment” means a location where food or other products are offered to the public for direct sale or delivery to a customer, including but not limited to the following: supermarket, convenience store, service station, delicatessen, department store, dollar store, drycleaner, clothing store, restaurant, pharmacy, food truck, farmers’ market or delivery service.
How Can Businesses Comply With This Ordinance?
Beginning 90 days after the Effective Date (see below), retail establishments are prohibited from providing a single-use plastic bag or a bag that does not qualify as a reusable bag to a customer at the retail establishment or through a delivery.
Recyclable Paper Bag
A retail establishment may provide a customer a recyclable paper bag at the point of sale if the bag is provided to the customer for a mandatory, uniform charge of $0.10 per recyclable paper bag. All monies collected by a retail establishment under this section for provision of a Recyclable Paper Bag shall be retained by the retail establishment.
Expanded Polystyrene Food Service Product
Beginning 90 days after the effective date, retail establishments are prohibited from providing an expanded polystyrene food service product to a customer at the retail establishment or through a delivery.
Straws and Utensils
Beginning 90 days after the effective date, retail establishments are prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws an single-use plastic utensils except upon request of the customer.
Are Any Exemptions Allowed?
The BOS or its designee, may, in its sole discretion, upon written request of a retail establishment, exempt a retail establishment from the requirements of this ordinance for a period of not more than one year from the effective date upon a finding by the BOS or its designee that the requirements of [the ordinance] would cause undue hardship to the retail establishment.
“Hardships” include: (1) a unique circumstance or situation such that there are no reasonable alternatives to single-use plastic bags, non-recyclable paper bags or expanded polystyrene food product; or (2) additional time is necessary to draw down an existing inventory held by the retail establishment.
What Are the Enforcement Measures?
Violations incur fines: $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, $200 for the third and subsequent offenses.
What is the Effective Date of This Ordinance?
All provisions of this Ordinance shall be in full force and effect five (5) days following its legal enactment.
Nearly 200 people have responded to my survey and over 100 have submitted comments. A sampling of comments is presented below. To see ALL the comments, download the PDF version: “Single-Use Plastics Ban Survey Results”.
“Incredible that this is a priority. Very disappointing. What's next —no more gas stoves? Also glad studies show that recycled plastic doesn't clog storm drains or require municipalities to pick it up and only single use plastics are littering the roadways and clogging our drains! Pretty amazing study that can distinguish the difference .....,or not.”
“I am very much in favor of banning single use plastics. It has been done successfully in many other states – especially in New England. It is about time that Pennsylvania got on board with more environmental protections.” – Kathy G.
“The issue about grocery bags is nothing compared to plastic water bottles!!”
“Of course they should be banned!”
“Another insane attempt to create rules that aren't supported by facts! Get rid of wind turbines first!!!! Killing mammals but we focus on plastic!”
“Please DO NOT force our local businesses to stop offering plastic bags to their customers who CHOOSE to use them. This is NOT a place for local government. This will not have any positive effect on our local environment as well. None. Please focus on our roads which are extremely beat up in many places. We don’t need any unfunded mandates from local government on our Newtown Township businesses. The cost will just be passed onto us the customers.”
“Why are our local politicians spending their time on issues that will only be solved at a global level? Do you think China and India are banning single use plastics any time soon. Please spend your time on local issues that help your citizens rather than inconvenience them; fix the roads/potholes; lower our taxes; stop authorizing endless development that more directly affects the environment and quality of living.”
“In Hawaii, they banned single-use plastics years ago. The stores will sell you a small reusable bag for .20. Redners Supermarkets in Langhorne have paid 3 cents for each reusable you use. They have been doing this for years.”
“Not only do plastics take a long time to break but some break down into toxic chemicals they originated from. In addition, oil based plastic polymers account for about 1/3 of all the oil pumped out of the ground. Experience from a retired biochemist.”
“Against any/all virtue signaling legislation that promises to make a difference, but in actuality does not significantly change anything in the environment. Local politicians were not elected for this; help fix our roads and lower our taxes please.”
“Reusable bags are unsanitary when used for groceries. If I’m going to wash them, I am going to wash them in a new, separate laundry load, not with clothing or bed sheets. So that’s additional detergent, water and electric use. We do reuse the current plastic bags for trash and pet waste disposal. If we don’t have them to reuse, then we will have to purchase Hefty or Glad bags for those uses, which are typically a heavy gauge, more environmentally unfriendly plastic. Another good reason to shop outside of Newtown.”
“This is bull. New Jersey bans bags to appease mother gia. It creates aggravation for business and customers Meanwhile new Jersey is putting thousands of windmills offshore . I guess a lot of palms got greased for that More marine mammals have washed up dead on nj beaches since the project started a year or so ago than in the previous sixty years of my life. So good luck with your smarmy virtue signaling.” – Christopher M. (response to Patch article: “Newtown Township To Unveil Single-Use Plastics Ordinance”).
“Thank you for stepping up and taking on this issue. We are all responsible to take better care of our environment for future generations.” – Jennifer V. (response to Patch article: “Newtown Township To Unveil Single-Use Plastics Ordinance”).
Use of plastics is out of control in the US and these new rules will begin to make a difference.
We need to reduce what we put in landfills!
Plastic bags are usually recycled many times over. When disposed of they are landfilled. All trash and recycled waste is actually landfilled unless it has salvage value such as metals. This doesn't solve any problems, just creates an inconvenience and raises costs to residents.
I think this should be a state issue. Or make it a local referendum where people vote. I do fear losing business places right down the road in another municipality. I also think Newtown has larger issues to be focusing on (pedestrian safety and parking issues at Village of Newtown).
I feel Newton should join with Philadelphia and other pa towns that have banned the single use plastics.
We see the sobering effects of climate change effecting our lives very rapidly, particularly in the increase of extreme weather disasters. The loss of our birds and the stress on ocean dwelling creatures is profoundly sad. We must do ALL we can to decelerate the damage to our planet.
I’m really confused how we think this is a good idea for the Township to be different than other municipalities right down the street.
I work in NJ and used to stop on my way home to pickup groceries. The key term is “used” too. Now so much easier to get locally with a bag. I thought we want businesses to stay within the township and want revenue dollars to be within the township or am I confused? This should be a state level issue so would keep businesses on equal footing. I’m just so confused that the Township would think this would be a great idea to go first in Bucks County.
Yes eventually the State will mandate but the township needs to stay in their lane. We want you to keep taxes lower, enforce zoning, fix traffic and parking issues and pedestrian safety. Being ahead of a state ban is not a smart idea and I’m confused how the supervisors can not see the broader implications in the short term if ahead of a state ban.
A better idea would be to educate people and create incentive programs as opposed to a ban. Banning puts a very heavy burden on already struggling businesses and families. While we all agree the environment needs protecting, you cannot throw the economics of this ban in the garbage either.
We could create a cleanup day/week/etc. to remove waste from natural areas. We can encourage our waste management companies to push everyone to stop recycling plastics that are not actually recyclable and throw them away. When they can't recycle plastics they end up in the places we don't want them. Take them to the landfill. We should have an incentive tax, or some type of benefit for businesses to adjust to reusables - better plastics, reusable bags, etc. Banning these plastics in Newtown will not make a micro-plastic worth of dent in the environment. But we could show people that we incentivize good behavior instead of punishing bad. You could have a program for stores and their vendors. Give them incentives based on the number of vendors using reusable materials with their products. If the TOWN is so worried about this, you should start giving out free reusable shopping bags. There are a TON of INCENTIVES you could use vs. Bans, fines, etc. Also, go read Michael Shellenberger, he's an environmentalist with great ideas on how to fight climate change in a smart way.
I'm surprised the Powers to be in Newtown have'nt enacted this already.
We've been using strong fabric bags for years and they work well...easy to, throw them in the wash when necessary, etc. Totally agree that we have to make this a major grass roots issue before the states or Feds get involved. It's a simple "feel good" thing for anyone interested in preserving our planet!
Added costs because of the ban are like an added tax. Re-usable bags have there own costs. They need to cleaned, most likely with commercial cleaners and detergents, plus using more water and producing waste water into the stream. This should be an individual's choice.
In 2020 the earth reached a critical milestone. The total global human-created material output has surpassed all natural biomass. This accelerating rate is unfathomable. In just a handful of generations we overpopulated the planet with 8 billion souls and now our “stuff” outweighs all life including people, plants and animals. The landfills are full, recycling is inefficient, and oceans are polluted. There isn’t a path backwards to a simpler time. The solution for plastic is to reduce. Pass the ordinance to reduce single-use plastic on this earth. Thank you. Peter Gilles
It is the responsibility of local government to ensure environmental protections for its constituents and their future generations. Single use plastics has had an horrific effect not only on our environment, but on individual health as it has become the fabric of our drinking water, soil and air. Thus, single use plastics has infiltrated our bodies. It has also littered our highways, streets and habitats for all living things. Changing over to non-single use plastic alternatives is not that difficult and has been done elsewhere for years. It is about time that we take a stand to do the right thing. There was a complaint that this would be a hardship I find to be incredulous. It is no big deal to put some reusable bags in your car and use them as you go into the store. if you do not have them and need to pay a minuscule fee for a paper bag, so be it. I do not see that to be a hardship. Rather, it is a hardship, not only for those involved in the cleanup process of our environment, but on the environment and its habitants. Please put this single use plastic ban into effect quickly!
The Draft Ordinance
See the Draft Ordinance embedded below or download the PDF file here.
Posted on 29 Mar 2023, 01:57 - Category: Ordinances
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