A greener New Year

Bayonne to ban plastic bags and straws in 2020

Bayonne will ring in the New Year in a more eco-friendly fashion. On Jan. 1, the city will take steps to curtail its environmental impact by banning plastic bags. Mayor Jimmy Davis wants everyone to know that starting in 2020, a city-wide ban will take effect on single-use, carryout plastic bags provided by retail establishments.

Bayonne is the third city in Hudson County to ban disposable plastic bags. Hoboken banned them in early in the year, followed by Jersey City. Secaucus has also passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags that will go into effect in 2020.

Bayonne’s ordinance is not as sweeping as some of its neighbors. In Hoboken, Styrofoam was also banned. Styrofoam is just as environmentally dangerous as plastic, if not more because it can’t be recycled.

Bayonne’s ordinance reads, “No retail establishment shall provide any single-use, plastic carry-out bags to a customer at the checkout stand, cash register, point of sale, or other point of departure for the purpose of transporting products or goods out of the business or store, except as otherwise provided.”

Under the new ordinance, retail establishments are also prohibited from selling or providing single-use plastic straws.

Exemptions

However, a few exceptions allow certain establishments to continue to sell plastic bags despite the potential environmental hazard. According to the ordinance, single-use, plastic, and carryout bags may be used by businesses or stores to sell bait. The new restrictions also don’t apply to items that need to be sold or delivered in plastic bags in compliance with food safety and disposal laws.

The ordinance also states that bags used by customers to bring loose produce or products to the checkout are permitted. These include bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, meats, fish, or other items to prevent seepage.

Other plastic bags permitted at retail establishments are laundry bags, dry-cleaning bags, pharmacy prescription bags, and bags sold in bulk intended as garbage or waste bags.

Under the ordinance, retailers can sell only reusable bags, but establishments could also switch to recyclable paper bags.

Nothing in the ordinance prevents businesses from selling their own reusable bags, or customers from bringing their own reusable bags. This opens the window for retail establishments to turn this potential costly new ordinance into a profitable one, while lessening Bayonne’s impact on the environment.

The Bayonne Nature Club adopted the use of nets to catch plastics on Bayonne’s western shore near Rutkowski Park. The group conducted a shoreline cleanup, scooping up plastic cigar filters, empty bottles of alcohol and soft drinks, candy wrappers, shoes, and a child’s scooter. Much of the garbage likely made it to the shore through Bayonne’s underground sewage system, where garbage often collects. During times of intense precipitation, the sewage overflows through more than 30 outflows surrounding the city. At Rutkowski Park, vegetation is starting to grow back along a pathway that had to be dug up to remove chromium. Tree saplings have been planted, and native vegetation is expected to sprout again.

According to a press release, the Bayonne City Council passed the ordinance to help reduce the city’s environmental footprint and also help reduce litter. This is a big step in preserving the local ecosystem. Single-use, carryout plastic bags have a negative impact on local marine life, especially in the Hudson River.

Riverkeeper is a clean water advocacy group whose mission is to protect the “environmental integrity” of the Hudson River and the drinking water of the surrounding inhabitants. It started as the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association. Fifty years later, it regularly conducts cleanups of the Hudson River area and its shorelines.

According to Riverkeeper’s 2019 Hudson River Sweep, a majority of the items recovered were plastic. More than 1,000 single-use plastic bags were recovered.

However, plastic beverage bottles topped the list. Another ordinance might be necessary to combat plastic pollution in Bayonne and the greater Hudson River area.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.