CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham Township Committee introduced an ordinance that will ban retailers from dispensing single-use plastic bags by a 3-2 vote on Thursday at its regular meeting.
Committee members Curt Ritter and Karen Swartz voted no, wishing to table the measure because of their objections to language in the ordinance, which will be up for adoption on Oct. 10. If adopted, it will go into effect in March 2020.
Chatham Township Mayor Tayfun Selen, Deputy Mayor Mike Kelly and Committee member Tracy Ness all voted against tabling the measure and voted for the introduction.
Ritter and Swartz wanted an "educate not legislate" approach to the issue and Swartz brought a number of bags to the meeting, including a ShopRite bag, which says "reusable" on it (see video below).
Those voting for the measure took note of the Environmental Commission's report that microplastics from plastic bags were dissolving into the local drinking water and posed a health risk.
Kelly said that local businesses such as Ace Hardware and ShopRite were in favor of the move and that an amendment could be made, if needed, in advocating for the ordinance (see the video below).
On Monday, the Chatham Borough Council had unanimously introduced a similar ordinance on plastic bags. The difference, however, is that the borough ordinance calls for a 10 cent charge for paper bags used to replace the plastic ones. The township ordinance does not include a 10 cent charge for paper bags.
Ritter contended that the ordinance was moving forward too quickly and that a survey taken on the issue did not represent the majority of Chatham Township residents (see video below).
Swartz and Ritter wanted to table the introduction because of their objection to language. Swartz noted that the title on the agenda "Prohibiting Plastic Bags" caught her attention and said there were so many exceptions to the law that it would cause confusion. Ness countered that the ordinance had been in the public eye for the last nine months (see video below).
The contentiousness of the debate over the wording of the ordinance and its exceptions prompted residents to speak up during the final public comment session of the night.
Jessica Romeo of the Environment Commission said that those opposed should check out how the plastic bag bans work in towns that have done it already in the video below.
Chatham Township resident Jane Devlin spoke during public commentary about the contentious nature of the exchanges between committee members in the video below.