NEWARK, NJ - Council members on Tuesday supported a ban on plastic bags in the city, but wanted the new proposal to be stricter.
“If we're going to do this, we should go beyond just prohibiting the use of bags,” said Councilman At-Large Carlos Gonzalez. “I believe styrofoam - I believe plastic straws - are probably more a problem [than] bags might be.”
The council on Tuesday advanced the ordinance, which would fine a business anywhere from $250 to $1,000 each day single-use bags are offered to customers. The measure still needs to go through additional readings before being fully approved.
Gonzalez suggested following in the footsteps of Margate, a shore town which distributed 10,000 donated reusable bags to businesses when it initiated its plastic ban. Other council members agreed.
“I think as a city we should take a proactive approach to maybe arm some of these small businesses - who right now - some of whom are struggling to operate in this market,” said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos. “In the era of Amazon, small businesses around our city are struggling.”
Others suggested phasing in the ban too. The ordinance would impact retail establishments like restaurants, clothing stores or supermarkets.
“It is very, very new to our city,” said Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver. “I mean, we're struggling every day just with regular recycling. So definitely, we should be taking it baby steps at a time.”
In the future, the ban could extend to other non-biodegradables, said Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart. But for now, the city didn’t want to shock business owners with too many new regulations.
“What we didn't want to do is put the different bodegas and stores - y’know the everyday folk who rely on these things - in a space where they're unable to use most of their supplies as we have now,” Stewart said.
East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador said a similar ban on plastics was made under Sharpe James’ administration. The ban apparently pertained to non-biodegradable plastics in food packaging.
But, Amador was concerned about the implementation of the new ban.
“One of the things that we don't do so well in this city is implementing whatever we create," he said.
Stewart, the corporation counsel, said city code enforcement officers would uphold the ban at businesses. To that, Council President Mildred Crump scoffed.
“Oh please,” Crump said. “They're already overworked. I feel so sorry for them.”
Other large cities have also approved bans on plastic bags, including Jersey City and Hoboken. California has banned single-use plastic bags statewide, but Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a similar measure last year because it wasn't strict enough.