BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On January 1, several NJ towns began to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. Shortly after, Berkeley Heights approved the ordinance to regulate the use of plastic bags and straws and polystyrene foam products, which will take effect on December 1. This effort will help to reduce waste that damages the environment.
Businesses are expected to supply alternative bags, such as paper and reusable bags, and charge a fee for them. Bags that are made from recyclable material must also be labeled as such. For businesses that refuse to comply with the ban, they will be warned and then fined for each violation. It is important to note that plastic bags for produce not located at the checkout will remain in stores.
Some students were concerned over the economic impact the ban would have on businesses. Junior Joey Bonnetti argued, “Plastic bags are cheaper, more efficient, and easier to produce. The businesses that use plastic bags are trying to save money, and the environment is not their concern.”
Businesses use plastic bags because they are cheaper, and requiring businesses to purchase alternatives adds to their costs. These bags are expected to cost between 10 and 25 cents. The fee imposed on consumers can be an inconvenience and discourage them from shopping as much. Also, people may consider going to a nearby town that doesn’t have a ban to do their shopping.
Not everyone agreed with the concerns for businesses. Sophomore Thomas Burke said, “I’d get rid of [plastic bags]. It wouldn’t be an economic strain, as it’s just a few cents. It might create inconvenience at first, but it’s really good for the environment since it reduces plastic waste.” Burke did not believe that the plastic ban would hurt businesses or consumer shopping habits.
Junior Phoebe Kim supported Burke's environmental concerns. She said, “It’s good since it reduces pollution and influences people to recycle more.”
Kevin Hughes added, “By adding a cost to plastic bags, people will realize they need to be more conscious of the environment.” The constant tax reminder will provide an incentive for consumers to avoid wasting plastic. Consumers under assistance programs like welfare, however, will not be taxed.
Some students had some reservations on the plastic straw and polystyrene container ban. Senior Ryan Duswalt said, “This policy is definitely better for the environment. I’m not a big fan of using alternatives like paper straws since they fall apart, but it’s still a good idea. A lot of people use styrofoam cups, but I suppose it’s fine.”
Many students remarked that they did not want to give up plastic straws because they are more flexible than paper straws and cheaper than metal straws. However, if this policy improves the environment, students are willing to make that sacrifice.
The plastic ban in NJ has targeted over 30 municipalities, and the state continues to debate instituting a statewide ban. Berkeley Heights will not be enforcing it until the end of the year. And it will be much longer than that before the impact of these bans will be seen on the environment.