Newtown Township EAC Releases Details Of Single


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May 10, 2023

Newtown Township EAC Releases Details Of Single

NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP, PA — The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council has

NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP, PA — The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council has unveiled details of a proposed ordinance that would regulate single-use plastics in the township.

In its present form, the ordinance would ban restaurants and businesses in the township from using single-use plastic bags; prohibit plastic straws, stirrers and utensils except upon request by the customer; and ban polystyrene food containers, plates, hot and cold beverage cups, trays and clamshells.

"Retailers are encouraged to switch to drinkable lids or paper straws, as well as to find alternative, eco-friendly products," reads an FAQ for businesses.

There would be some exceptions. For example, polystyrene products would be allowed to package raw, uncooked or butchered meat, fish, poultry or seafood; plastic bags could still be used to pack or wrap nonperishable items such as fruit and vegetables, nuts and grains, meats and fish; and bags used at a pet store to hold live animals such as fish or insects would still be allowed.

While single-use plastic bags would be banned under the ordinance, the EAC suggests that businesses offer customers paper bags labeled 100 percent recyclable and containing no old growth fiber, a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content and have visible labeling.

Businesses may also provide customers with reusable bags that have attached handles, made of cloth or other machine fabric or made of Polypropylene that can be hand washed and disinfected.

The ordinance also allows retail establishments to charge a 10 cent fee per bag. The fee is designed to support the businesses by off-setting the added cost of paper bags and encouraging consumers to bring their own bags. The retailer may set their own charge for their reusable bags, the ordinance reads.

If adopted by the board of supervisors, Newtown would become the third municipality in Bucks to pass an ordinance banning single-use plastics. Last year, Doylestown Borough adopted a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags with no fee for paper bags. Solebury also voted to ban single-use plastic grocery bags along with plastic straws and polystyrene food containers.

Bans are already in place in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and in the City of Philadelphia. With no ban in place in Pennsylvania, municipalities have been crafting and passing their own ordinances regulating single-use plastics.

According to EAC Co-Chair Elaine McCarron, there's a coalition of about 30 municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs in the process of crafting their own ordinances after initially passing resolutions.

In Newtown Township, the board of supervisors passed a resolution in April 2022 calling on businesses and residents to voluntarily reduce single-use plastics.

Several small businesses were receptive and switched to environmentally friendly, reusable bags and products, said McCarron. "However, many of our 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 businesses to switch."

During a special meeting last week held to gauge the temperature of the business community on the proposed ordinance changes, Faran Savitz, a zero waste advocate with PennEnvironment, spoke about the impact single-use plastics is having on the environment and why an ordinance is needed.

A study conducted by PennEnvironment found that waterways in Bucks County and across the state are contaminated with microplastics from discarded plastic bags and litter tossed in the street and washed away by storms into local rivers and streams.

"We found microplastics everywhere we tested," said Savitz. "We've tested drinking water. We found microplastics. These plastics are everywhere. They are in the air and we're breathing it in. It's in our water so we're drinking it. They are in our foods so we're eating it. Some studies suggest that you ingest five grams of microplastics a week. That's equivalent to a credit card or a single-use plastic bag.

"It's posing hazard to our wildlife and to our health," said Savitz. "Every year Americans generate 35 million tons of plastic waste. That's the amount we throw out. Less than six percent ends up recycled. The rest is ending up in the landfill, the incinerator and in the environment ... And plastic doesn't go away. It just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces known as microplastics. They are in our air. They are in our drinking water. They are in our food.

"That's why we have been working to get rid of these single-use plastics," said Savitz. "They are everywhere. They are in every part of our lives.They never truly go away. They harm our environment, our wildlife and our health. The best thing we can do is to find replacements and get rid of the single-use plastics," he said.

For the past several years, Savitz and PennEnvironment have been working with municipalities to draft and pass ordinances regulating single-use plastics. The first was in Narberth. Since then 15 cities, townships and boroughs, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have passed similar ordinances.

In response to the presentation, Doug Haines, the owner of Newtown Chocolatier, asked the EAC whether the plastic trays used inside of his chocolate boxes would be impacted. The answer from the EAC was no. The ordinance does not address packaging. He also asked about plastic bags and what he could use as an alternative.

McCarron said the EAC is willing to work with any business owner in the township on finding the best solutions.

Maryann Verdan, the chief of operations at McCaffrey's Market, urged the local officials to refocus their attention on passing legislation at the state level instead of locally.

A local ban in Newtown, she said, would put their store at a competitive disadvantage with the nearby Giant located two miles away in neighboring Middletown Township, which doesn't have a single use plastics ordinance in place.

From her experience in New a Jersey where a statewide single-use plastic bag law is in place, Verdan recommended eliminating paper bags as well.

"Don't give us the option to charge people 10 cents because the community blames the cashier. The community thinks it's McCaffrey's that's doing this to them. It doesn't matter how many signs are up," she said. "The public doesn't know where this is coming from and it puts us as the bad guy. Ban all bags and don't put us in a position where we have to ask the senior who is on a limited budget to cough up money because they forgot their bags."

Verdan also added that when New Jersey implemented its bag ban, it made no provisions for delivery service, which is an expanding arm of the grocery business. "You have to make provisions as to how we get groceries to people at home," she suggested.

With that said, Verdan said she’d like to work closely with the EAC and the township on the development of the ordinance. "McCaffrey's is committed to recycling. We have big cans out in our vestibule and customers can bring their plastic bags to us. I’m not asking you not to ban or not to go forward because this is a very important thing, but I’d just like you to think about what impact this will have on people who are on a limited income."

McCarron called the ordinance "transitional" and said "we're learning from it. We don't want anyone to get angry. We’re looking at the easiest things," she said, referring to single-use plastic bags.

"We walk into a store and eat our sandwich. The sandwich is wrapped in plastic and we throw it away. Where does that go? Minimum, 400 to 1,000 years for it to break down. And as it breaks down it's breaking into toxic chemicals," she said. "And what they’ve found now is that it's in your blood. It's pretty outrageous. But the plastics industry keeps putting out plastics. If we, as consumers, start changing our habits, hopefully corporations will follow."

After the meeting, Supervisor Elen Snyder, who has been a strong advocate for a single-use plastics ban, said those in attendance at the meeting appeared to be receptive to the idea.

"If we make the case and we present it in the right way, commonsense will prevail," she said, adding that 80 percent of businesses have already indicated their support for the changes.

Jeff Werner