To the Editor:

In the interest of making sure that the public has all the facts on the proposed Berkeley Heights ordinance on plastic bags, straws and polystyrene, the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission would like to rectify some errors and omissions in the article. 

1. It is not true that the proposed ordinance will prohibit bags for “produce within the store.”  Under the Proposed Ordinance, produce bags and all other bags in the store located at places other than at the point of sale still will remain available.  In fact, plastic bags are allowed for fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, candies, frozen foods (which, by the way, includes ice cream), meats, and fish, as well as for small hardware items, flowers, plants, or other items where dampness may be an issue.  Just to be clear, fruits and vegetables are produce items. 

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2. It is incorrect to state the following about thin-film plastics collected in Trex bins around town: “[m]any, if not all of those, are thin-film bags residents used to bring home their groceries and other local purchases.” There are numerous other items that people regularly place in Trex bins for recycling, repurposing, and re-use.  These items include newspaper sleeves, produce bags, Ziploc bags, bubble wrap, plastic over-wrap that covers dry cleaning, toilet paper, and paper towels, as well as many other items. For a list of some of these other items, a complete list of the seven Trex bins around town, please visit the BHEC webpage at https://www.berkeleyheights.gov/379/Recycling-Thin-Film-Plastics.  

Notably, in terms of waste management, best practice is to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” with recycling of materials being the least preferable option for a reason.  This is why the BHEC is making efforts to get residents to reduce their plastics use in the first place.

3.  The ordinance will not become effective and enforceable on July 1, 2020.  In the draft of the Proposed Ordinance that was available for public comment and review in the January 21 Township Council Agenda, it states that the Proposed Ordinance will become effective and enforceable on “September 1, 2020” – two months later.  The BHEC revised the Proposed Ordinance prior to the January 21 Township Council meeting to give businesses an approximate 6-month compliance ramp-up period.

Additionally, two critical facts should be noted.  First, at the January 21 Township Council meeting, Sandra Lavigne of the Great Swamp Watershed Association referred to a study the Great Swamp Watershed conducted regarding the amount of microplastics found in water from the Passaic River at Berkeley Heights.  Second, the results of the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s study negated Mr. Foregger’s claim of lack of evidence relating specifically to Berkeley Heights.

The BHEC appreciates that TapintoBerkeleyHeights is covering this important issue.  And we expect that TapintoBerkeleyHeights wants the residents of Berkeley Heights to have all the facts.