Banning the bag

Citywide ordinance on single-use plastic bags goes into effect

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Lindsay Inserra and Peter Cavo stand near one of the many displays used to educated the public on plastic bag ban.
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Mayor Steven Fulop distributes reusuable bags at Jersey City Shop Rite.
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Count down to plastic bag ban is now at zero days.
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Alternatives to plastic bags are available.
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  1 / 4 
Lindsay Inserra and Peter Cavo stand near one of the many displays used to educated the public on plastic bag ban.
  2 / 4 
Mayor Steven Fulop distributes reusuable bags at Jersey City Shop Rite.
  3 / 4 
Count down to plastic bag ban is now at zero days.
  4 / 4 
Alternatives to plastic bags are available.

For five weeks, the staff at ShopRite on Marin Boulevard has been preparing the public for the city ban on single-use plastic bags.

Though the ordinance was adopted in 2018, it went into effect on June 28.

“My major goal was to educate the public about the city ordinance,” said ShopRite Manager Peter Cavo.

He said he has been preparing his customers using a number of methods, from the tee shirts the employees wear to a countdown sign that hit zero on June 28.

“We’ve had a very positive response,” he said. “We talked to people about the fees associated with the new bags, and people can bring their own.”

The store now sells reusable cloth and thicker plastic bags, giving customers two for the 99-cent price of one. The store will continue to remind customers of the new regulation with promotions throughout the month of July.

The new sturdier plastic bags are available at the counter for people who forget to bring their own. These are made of a heavier plastic and can be used multiple times rather than just once.

“They are washable,” he said. “They cost 10 cents each.”

In the bag

Cavo said the store and its owners, the Inserra family, have been working with the mayor and the city council to prepare for this day, and to make sure the store is in compliance with the ordinance.

Lindsay Inserra, a fourth-generation family member, is extremely conscious of the impact of plastic on the environment.

“We are doing everything to help sustain the environment,” she said, referring to a number of programs that include composting and a “table to table” program which supports food banks near ShopRite stores.

“I think people will get used to this,” she said. “We’ve done a lot to prepare them, not just here, but also at our Hoboken store. We took steps to anticipate when these ordinances would go into effect.”

She called it a learning curve.

The Inserra family owns 23 ShopRites and two Price Rites, from Rockland County, New York, to Hudson County, with stores in Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, and North Bergen. Currently, only the Jersey City and Hoboken stores must comply with the ban.

To help kick off the start of the citywide ban on commercial/retail use of disposable plastic bags as part of the city’s effort to decrease litter contamination, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop distributed reusable bags at several local supermarkets on the morning of June 28.

As of June 28, it is a violation of the Municipal Code in Jersey City to use single-use or disposable plastic bags in both commercial and retail businesses. Plastic pollutes waterways, streets, and parks, not to mention the annoying sight of plastic bags caught in tree limbs waving in the breeze.

“The goal is not to punish retailers but to create a behavior change where residents start bringing their own reusable bags,” Fulop said. “It’s not uncommon to be anywhere in the state and see plastic bags blowing around, polluting our parks and clogging sewage drains.  This ordinance looks to make it a habit for shoppers to bring their reusable bags when shopping, and steer them away from the single-use plastic bags.”

Bring your bag

To offset the spread of plastic bags in the streets and waterways, the city ordinance mandates businesses provide reuseable and durable carryout bags with handles that customers can continue to use at retail stores for up to 125 or more occasions.  Some retailers may choose to continue to provide reusable plastic bags that meet the requirements of the ordinance.

Since the ordinance passed the city council in 2018, a yearlong effort was launched to educate and increase awareness on the bag ban. The city worked with the community to host events with programming designed to increase awareness. Events included partnerships with the Board of Education and Goldman Sachs, which hosted two recent events, the sustainability STEAM bag challenge and Bagapalooza.

This initiative is part of a larger effort to make Jersey City more environmentally sustainable. The city has been a certified Sustainable Jersey community since 2011.

In recent years, local officials say Jersey City has led the state on many environmental issues, including electrifying the city fleet, installing solar panels on municipal buildings, using green infrastructure to mitigate storm water runoff, and committing to tackling climate change.

In 2018, Jersey City created an Office of Sustainability to oversee the city’s sustainability efforts.

“For this year’s theme of sustainable neighborhoods, we’ve been focusing on ways to involve residents in making positive environmental changes within their own neighborhoods,” said Katherine Lawrence, director of Jersey City’s Office of Sustainability.  “One such way residents can make an impact is through reducing their use of single-use items such as plastic bags.”

The impact of disposable plastic bags polluting the environment is no longer in question on a global scale. A month ago, during the world-record-setting manned dive to 36,000 feet in the southern end of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, divers recovered plastic bags and other trash among the rarely seen sea life on the ocean floor.

“This measure, this small step we are taking, can be a huge step with everyone’s combined efforts across communities,” said Fulop. “We all have to do our part. I’m proud to serve as a model for other large cities across the nation, and I hope to provide motivation to them.”

The single-use bag ban applies to any bag provided by retail establishments at point of sale. Bags provided to customers must either be reusable or 10 percent recyclable paper bags that are made from at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled content.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com