CHATHAM, NJ - After a lengthy discussion that spanned three meetings, the Chatham Township Committee voted, 3-1, to adopt an ordinance that will ban single-use plastic bags - starting in March, 2020 - at its regular meeting held Thursday night.
Chatham Township Mayor Tayfun Selen revealed during the final committee discussion that he had spoken by phone with Steve Sweeney, New Jersey Senate president, and confirmed that a state law on the subject of plastic bags was in the works and very likely to pass. Selen couldn't confirm a timeline for the passage of such a measure, citing his distrust of Trenton, as part of his explanation for voting yes to the ordinance (see video below).
Committee members Tracy Ness and Deputy Mayor Mike Kelly voted yes, both citing the unknown health dangers of microplastics found in the drinking water supplied by the Passaic River.
Committee member Karen Swartz put up a motion to table the ordinance, which was not seconded. She also put forth amendments to the ordinance, also not seconded, and, therefore, not voted upon. Swartz continued to contend that education, not legislation was the way to go in voting no, talking about the negative effects it could have on local businesses.
Committee Curt Ritter, who voted no on introduction to the ordinance, was absent from the meeting.
The majority of the public in attendance spoke in favor of the ordinance during the public hearing, including members of the Chatham High Green Team; Lafayette fifth-grade teacher Ann Worden, who read letters from her students to the committee, and Adam Palmer of the Great Swamp Watershed Association.
Chatham High has done away with the use of plastic water bottles this year and student Anna Van Wie noted that the CHS Green Team has grown from eight students to 40 in a year. She advocated for the plastic bag ban in the video below.
Chatham resident Marilyn Murray said she was all for taking care of the environment and reducing the use of plastic, but said she was in favor of education, not legislation, and said the law is a "feel good" measure. Murray said the ordinance was like "using a sledgehammer against an ant." A portion of her remarks are in the video below.
Lafayette fifth-grade teacher Ann Worden had her students write letters, giving their opinions about the ordinance banning plastic bags. She read a number of them to the committee (some which can be heard in the video below).
Chatham Township resident Stewart Carr, who later said he was on board with the ordinance, said that the back-and-forth discussion was positive. See his remarks in the video below.