MILLBURN, NJ — Earlier this week, members of the Millburn Environmental Commission returned before the township committee to provide an update on the single-use plastic and polystyrene ordinance which was passed in December of last year, and took effect in June of this year.
The goal of the appearance before the township committee was to look at an amendment to the ordinance, specifically focused on chain retailers.
In a pair of presentations before the committee, both this week and at the last meeting, Priya Patel and Edward Hilzenrath spoke to research they had done at major retailers in town since the ordinance had taken effect. The environmental commission visited a number of stores, including Trader Joe's and Kings among others, to see how they were adapting to the new rules.
What they found was that while major retailers were complying with the letter of the law, they were falling short of the spirit. One example was Walgreens, which reportedly did not collect. a fee on plastic bags, along with stores like CVS and ShopRite, which did not meet the required threshold of recyclable materials, and could be categorized as further plastic waste. Additionally, several of the retailers did not list the fee for the plastic bag on their receipts.
Speaking after the meeting, Patel said that the end goal for the environmental commission is to see to it that major retailers are not playing on an uneven field against smaller stores as the ordinance continues to take effect.
"Our hope is that they eventually amend the current ordinance," Patel said. "And that will force the hand of the retailers that are not abiding by the sprit of this ordinance to actually do what they need to do, and to stop putting more plastic bags into the waste stream."
However, in spite of the lapses from some of the major businesses, Patel said that every single local establishment they check in with has passed with flying colors. Something that she said was a testament to the owners and staff.
"I think they're under a lot of pressure and stress," she said. "And in spite of that, they are still abiding by this ordinance. We commend them, and I think that's possible, we want to support them and make sure that they survive this terrible period in our history.
"We kind of want to highlight the fact that if they're able to do this, if they're able to abide by the ordinance, certainly those retailers with much deeper pockets should be able to."
Following their presentations, the environmental commission was given the green light to begin work on a possible amendment by the township committee.