MADISON, NJ - The Borough Council voted unanimously (Council Member Carmella Vitale absent) at its September 23 rd meeting to introduce Ordinance 47-2019, which prohibits the use single-use carry-out plastic bags and regulates the use of paper bags by retail establishments within the Borough of Madison.
Madison Borough is working in partnership with Chatham Borough and Chatham Township to enact coordinated bans on single-use plastic bags in their jurisdictions.
Claire Whitcomb, Madison Environmental Commission Chairwoman, spoke at the Council meeting in support of Ordinance 47. She explained that this is part of a wave of interest in challenging “ourselves to find sustainable solutions.” She enthused that the children of the Borough are the biggest proponents of the prohibition of single-use plastic bags.
Also speaking in favor of introduction of Ordinance 47 was Sandra LaVigne, Director of Water Quality Programs at the Great Swamp Watershed Association. She and her staff have been tasked with assessing the plastic content in the water stream feeding into the watershed. She attributes most of that content to plastic bags.
The introduced ordinance notes that;
(1) on average one person uses 500 single-use disposable gags per year, 4 billion single-use shopping bags are used annually in New Jersey, and 102 billion are use nationwide;
(2) windblown plastic bags degrade land and waterways, and 80% of the plastic and trash that finds its way
into the oceans comes from the land;
(3) 12 million barrels of oil are used annually to manufacture, the plastic bags that Americans use;
(4) seabirds, fish and other marine and land-based wildlife mistake plastic for food, and some become
entangled in the plastic trash, leading to exhaustion, starvation and death;
(5) plastic breaks down into microplastics, which are ingested by sea animals andcontain toxic chemicals, that can be later consumed by humans;
(6) the use of single-use plastic bags has a “severe and negative environmental impact on the local and global environment” as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions emitted to produce such bags;
(7) 5% or fewer single-use bags are actually recycled;
(8) the Borough of Madison taxpayers bear the costs associate with the negative impact of plastic single-use bags;
(9)the Borough of Madison taxpayers bear the costs associated with the negative impact of single-use plastic bags;
(10) the use of paper carry-out paper bags has a present adverse impact on the environment although less than the single-use plastic bags as plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade releasing toxic materials during the process;
(11) reusable bags consume far less energy and natural resources than single use plastic and paper bags
(12) the Borough desires to reduce the number of disposable paper and single-use plastic bags that are being burned, used, discarded, and littered and to promote the use of reusable checkout bags by retail establishment within the Borough;
(13) the reduction in the use of disposable paper and plastic single-use bags by retail establishments within the Borough promotes a legitimate public purpose;
(14) a municipality in New Jersey may enact such ordinances as it may deem necessary and proper;
(15) regulating the use of plastic bags and paper bags will preserve the public health, safety and welfare of the municipality.
The introduced ordinance, if the Council passes its enactment, would be effective as of March 1, 2020 and would prohibit any retail establishment in the Borough from providing to any customer a single-use plastic carry-out bag and would prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic carry-out bags on Township property or at Township-sponsored events.
In addition, the proposed ordinance requires retail establishment to make available to customers upon request by the customer, for a fee of .10 per bag, paper bags for the purpose of carrying goods away from
the point of sale. The fee charged shall be retained by the retail establishment.
Whitcomb explained to the Council that the proposed ban is to be coupled with an education campaign to encourage people to start using reusable bags. The introduced ordinance states “each retail establishment shall be strongly encouraged to educate its staff to promote the use of reusable bags and to post signs
encouraging customers to use reusable bags.”
Mayor Robert Conley stated that while educating the public is important, it is most effective to make [the ban] the law and to make it difficult in local communities to use prohibited bags. He feels that the State of New Jersey will have “no choice but to make this a state law” and that the first step is to change habits to make this a “non-disposable world.”