Did you know that, statistically, one person uses on average 500 single-use disposable bags per year? Four billion single-use shopping bags are used annually in New Jersey, and 102 billion are used nationwide.
Well, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, Hoboken residents will begin doing their part to reduce plastic bag pollution when the city’s ban on single-use carryout plastic bags will go into effect.
The law, passed by the City Council in June and sponsored by Councilman Jim Doyle, regulates single-use carryout plastic bags and recyclable paper bags to promote the use of reusable bags by retail establishments citywide.
Hoboken joins 16 other towns in New Jersey to implement a plastic bag ban. Jersey City passed a similar ordinance the same month.
“Hoboken is committed to environmentally-friendly policies that help mitigate the impact of climate change and reduce pollution on our streets,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “This ban, initiated by the Hoboken Green Team, will go a long way to reducing Hoboken’s reliance on harmful plastic bags, and I’m proud Hoboken is at the forefront of progressive environmental policies.”
The ban, and the exemptions
The ban requires retailers to provide only reusable and recyclable bags to customers for their purchases and specifies that retailers can charge customers no more than 25 cents per paper bag. It also requires retailers to provide free reusable bags to any customer who is on a welfare assistance program to purchase goods.
However, not all plastic bags will disappear. The ordinance provides for some exemptions.
This includes newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, bags used to wrap frozen foods, meat and fish as well as package bulk items, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candies, or small hardware.
Plastic bags can still be used to wrap flowers, potted plants, or “other items where dampness may be an issue,” according to the ordinance, as well as unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods and pharmacy prescription bags, yard waste or pet waste bags, and food storage and garbage bags.
Any retail establishment that violates or fails to comply with the ban could be fined. According to the ordinance, the establishment would first receive an initial written warning notice for that violation. If it continues it would receive a $100 fine for the first violation. If a second violation occurs it could get a fine up to $200 and if a third violation occurs the establishment could pay up to $500 for the violation and any subsequent violation after that.
Retailers can also petition the city to be exempt for a $100 exemption fee. The mayor and the City Council’s Environment Subcommittee would grant their exemption.
According to the city’s spokesperson, Vijay Chaudhuri, no retailers have applied for an exemption.
Apart from free reusable bag giveaways, the city has “done extensive outreach to local businesses through Hoboken Green Team members, who have gone door to door to businesses informing them of the new ordinance,” according to Chaudhuri.
He said the city has also issued notices to the community via Nixle and promoted the ban using social media, flyers, and launched a web page about the ban (www.hobokennj.gov/plasticbags).
Businesses also received a flyer with their annual 2019 Health Department license notices, according to Chaudhuri.
“The majority of the feedback the city has received has been from supportive businesses enthusiastic to support the city’s initiative to improve our local environment,” said Chaudhuri.
Donna Garban, a co-owner of Little City Books in downtown Hoboken, said she felt the ban was a great idea.
Her own business has never provided plastic bags providing only paper and a reusable bag for shoppers.
“We always use paper bags and give away reusable totes for purchases over 75 dollars,” she said. ”The main reason is that we were very conscious of the fact that we were right on the river and any trash flying around would end up in the river. We wanted to preserve the beauty and cleanliness of the river and also in a small city, trash accumulates so quickly. We wanted to do our part to keep it green and keep it clean.”
Other businesses have offered reusable bags for purchase along with plastic bags over the years.
ShopRite will now provide a reusable plastic bag that is good for up to 120 uses and can be washed. They will also provide reusable canvas bags and offer a limited time promotion of buy one get one at a free or reduced rate when the ban first goes into effect.
Kings currently sells reusable bags and on Jan. 22, they will give away one bag to every customer while supplies last.
From Jan. 23 through Jan. 31 they will also be selling the reusable bags at a promotional price of 99 cents each.
Kings will also encourage Hoboken customers to bring their own bags, offering them a 0.04 credit for each bag they bring. They will also offer paper bags.
One new resident from California, Melanie, said she was surprised when she first moved here last month and her groceries were bagged in plastic.
“Back in California plastic bags haven’t been used for a while,” she said. (The state banned plastic bags in 2014.) “I am glad Hoboken is being more environmentally conscious.”
A few residents said they were concerned the ban would lead to an increase in pet waste, but according to the ordinance, pet waste bags are allowed under the ban.
Chaudhuri also said, “The city provides free pet waste bags in most dog runs, and plans to expand pet waste bag distribution in dog runs in 2019.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com or comment online at hudsonreporter.com.