• September 15, 2019

Point council: Time to ban single-use bags - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Point council: Time to ban single-use bags

In January, city imposed 5-cent fee on those bags

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 11:14 am

SOMERS POINT – Somers Point City Council considered banning single-use plastic bags on Thursday, Aug. 22, after a fee on single-use bags went into effect in the city Jan. 1. 

During last week’s meeting, the city council introduced an ordinance to amend the previous ordinance that imposed a five-cent fee on single-use plastic bags. 

According to the introduced ordinance, no covered store will provide single-use plastic bags to a customer at the cash register. 

The ordinance also stated that no covered store will prevent a person from using a bag to carry goods from the store. 

It includes a 120-day period for retailers to use existing supplies after the ordinance is passed.

Restaurants and street vendors are exempt from the ordinance. 

According to the ordinance, these single use bags negatively impact the local environment, create clean-up costs for the city, are costly to dispose of and take up limited landfill space.

The ordinance also cited Clean Ocean Action’s beach sweep data. 

It stated that, in 2014, 2,340 plastic bags were collected along the shore and in waterways in New Jersey. 

Councilman Kirk Gerety said he was “firm on getting rid of the fee.

“I think there’s a bad stigma with that fee and I think it has to be dealt with,” he said. 

“What is in the ordinance is to do a total ban on the plastic bags, and my reasoning behind that if you drive around town now you don’t see the single-use bags trapped inn bushes and trees and things like that,” he said. 

Councilman Carl D’Adamo expressed concern about the change happening so soon after the city council passing the five-cent fee. 

“I think this allows the consumer to get a bag if they went in, they left their multi-use bag back in the car, something like that. It does give them an option,” he said. 

Customers would have the option to purchase a multi-use bag if single-use bags were banned. 

Gerety cited a report compiled by Somers Point City Clerk Lucy Samuelson and said that, in the report, several businesses aid they could transition to a ban “overnight,” he said. 

Councilman James Toto agreed they need to get rid of the fee. 

However, he added that the city’s sewer department was getting far less calls than they used to about plastic bags being stuck in the sewer. 

Councilman Howard Dill also said he wanted to get rid of the fee. 

However, he also said he would rather get rid of the ordinance entirely rather than to “do away with the bags.”

He said he was concerned with people traveling through Somers Point and having to pay 50 cents or $1 for a reusable bag they may never use again, particularly at a store like Wawa, “where people come in and get two or three items.” 

When council members discussed what stores in Stone Harbor were doing, Councilman Dennis Tapp said they are charging 11 cents for reusable bags. 

“If it’s 10 cents or 11 cents it’s one thing, if it’s 50 cents or $1, that’s a whole different issue,” Dill said. 

Council President Sean McGuigan said he voted against the bag fee to begin with. 

“Overall, I don’t think this is our lane,” he said.  “I don’t think a local municipality that’s four square miles should be trying to regulate the stores when they’re trying to compete against other stores.”

He said it “puts our stores at a disadvantage.”

When asked by Tapp if anyone “lost a job over this,” McGuigan said there “has been lost revenue over there, yes.

“Whether that loss turned into someone losing their job, I can’t say that, no,” McGuigan said. 

Gerety, however, said he disagreed.

He said he spoke with a Wawa representative who reported saving money on bags. 

“There is money savings there.  There are also stores I believe are making money off of this because they’re selling the 10-cent bags, the reusable bags, things like that,” he said. 

While Tapp said they have to lose the five-cent fee, he also said that he thought a “step backwards is wrong.”

Councilwoman Janice Johnston, who was sworn in on Aug. 22, spoke in favor of the ordinance, and said she did not think it affected the stores at all. 

“To me, it’s been great. It’s made me remember to bring my reusable bags,” she said.  

A final passage and public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled for a city council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. 

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