The Jersey City Council has unanimously defeated an ordinance which would have expanded the city’s plastic bag ban due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
The ordinance would have created new fines for establishments that don’t follow the law. Businesses would have been fined up to $100 for an initial violation, up to $200 for a second, and up to $500 for all subsequent violations.
It also would have stretched the ban to include polypropylene bags and plastic bags that are at least 2.25 millimeters thick, both of which qualify as reusable bags under the current law.
It would have required businesses to provide recyclable paper bags for 10 to 25 cents each.
According to Councilman James Solomon, the city plans to introduce a new amendment to the plastic bag ordinance after the public health crisis has subsided.
Environmentalist supports the ban
During the council’s Monday caucus, Solomon said he was concerned that struggling businesses would be unable to comply with the new rules amid the pandemic.
Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittle supported the expanded ban.
“We are concerned that Jersey City is not moving forward with their stronger plastic bag ban because of the coronavirus … We understand that Jersey City is concerned about public safety, but delaying the ordinance does nothing to advance public health and safety,” Tittle said. “In fact, it does the opposite ,because research has shown that the virus can live on plastic for up to three days. Jersey City should still move forward with their amended ordinance even if they decide to delay enforcement.”
He opposed the use of the thicker plastic bag’s as reusable, citing studies that show people still use them as they would disposable bags.
“Places like Hoboken are doing the right thing by still moving forward with their plastic bag bans,” he said “Jersey City needs to follow their example.”
The Hoboken City Council expanded its plastic bag ban ordinance in August of 2019 which officially took effect this March.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said that some residents have asked the city to suspend its plastic bag ban because of the virus.
“I’ve heard from several residents requesting a postponement of our ban on plastic bags, the full ban of which went into effect earlier this year and complied with at virtually all of our businesses,” Bhalla said. “Halting the plastic bag ban is not something I’m willing to consider at this time, as I don’t believe it would yield a benefit to our efforts to combat COVID-19.
“Reusable bags seem to be the issue for some people. What I would suggest to all residents using reusable bags is to thoroughly wipe down and disinfect the outside and inside of the bag each time you come back into your home, which you should do along with all of your groceries and purchased goods.”