PARAMUS, NJ – Paramus may become the latest town to ban single-use plastic bags, joining a growing movement across the country aimed at promoting sustainability and reducing litter.

At its May 21 meeting, the borough council voted 5-0 to introduce an ordinance to not only prohibit businesses from distributing plastic bags at checkout, but also to ban polystyrene food containers (Councilwoman Jeanne Weber was absent).

If the ordinance passes on second reading, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020 and bar businesses from distributing carryout plastic bags, as well as packaging food in Styrofoam.

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Under the proposed ordinance, retailers would be required to provide recyclable paper bags at no charge to customers. The ban would not apply to plastic bags used to wrap produce, meat, fish or frozen food, or packaging used for items such as newspapers or dry cleaning.

According to Mayor Richard LaBarbiera, officials spent more than a year discussing the measure, as well as gathering input from the borough’s environmental commission and residents.

In the U.S., California and New York are the only ones with a plastic ban in place, though several states, such as Connecticut and Washington, are considering laws. Other states have focused more on implementing recycling programs or initiating fees to discourage the use of plastic bags altogether.

While there is legislation pending at the state level, there’s no known time frame for when it could advance, which has prompted several communities to implement measures aimed at reducing and eliminating carryout bags.

More than a dozen towns, including Glen Rock, Maplewood, Hoboken and Jersey City, have either banned plastic bags or placed fees on them, as well as on other items, such as plastic straws, plastic utensils and Styrofoam food containers.

Over the next several months, the borough in conjunction with the environmental commission will launch a campaign to raise awareness, educate and field questions in order to ensure “a smooth transition” in 2020. The borough also plans to distribute reusable tote bags at upcoming town events.