GLEN ROCK, NJ - The borough has suspended the single-use plastic bag ban for 60 days because the supply chain has been disrupted, according to council members.
"Ridgewood was the first to lift theirs," Mayor Kristine Morieko said. "With the uncertainty we're facing, any protection we can provide residents is worth a shot."
During a virtual meeting last night, the council approved suspending enforcement of the ban, with members denying it was because of fear propagated over rumors that single-use plastic bags were better to use during the coronavirus pandemic.
At area grocery stores, there are signs and announcements stating if people bring reusable bags from home, grocery store employees will not bag their groceries. But employees will bag groceries with fresh grocery store plastic bags.
Science based or not, the perception is reusable bags are dirty, mostly because people do not clean them after each use. And while plastics can harbor the coronavirus, if used once and discarded, they're not sitting in the car or in the house contaminating the place. This does not fit with the spirit of the single-use bag ban, which was instituted to be a better environmental choice.
"I heard from a couple of businesses," Morieko said. "It's more expensive for a business to use other bags. They've been so supportive of the community, it wouldn't hurt to help them in return."
Councilwoman Mary Barchetto said she does not want to have regrets about doing something that could have helped.
"I've done a lot of thinking on this," Barchetto said. "I don't want to have regrets about things I could have done. I feel comfortable lifting it and then immediately reinstituting it after social distancing is lifted."
Councilwoman Amy Martin said suspending the ban "goes against every fiber of her being," but she was willing to "very temporarily" lift the single use plastic bag ban.
Councilwoman Teresa Gilbreath cited the New England Journal of Medicine which stated coronavirus lives longer on plastic, but did not speak to whether reusable bags are more or less contaminated than fresh single-use plastic bags.
"There is a hype that plastic bags are safer," she said, noting she saw that through articles put out by the plastic bag industry. "But I understand there is a supply chain problem. Businesses can't get what they need."
Gilbreath said the medical community is not saying single-use plastics are any safer.
"Public health is number one," councilwoman Arati Kreibich said. "The Glen Rock Environmental Commission is split on this issue."
Kreibich put forth the 60-day non-enforcement of the single-use plastic bag ban with a look back at the issue in 45 days.
Councilman Rob Dill said the emails he had seen on the matter were "50/50." "I'm not convinced there is a health issue here," but did vote in favor of suspension.
The council voted 5-0 to suspend the enforcement of the ban, which took effect in the borough on January 1. Councilwoman Caroline Unzaga was not in attendance during the virtual meeting.