PARAMUS, N.J. — A new year for the Borough of Paramus means less plastic. 

Beginning January 1, a new ordinance regulating retail plastic bags and polystyrene foam will go into effect. Passed by the borough council on December 17 by a unanimous vote, the new, 12-page law prohibits the provision of single-use plastic carry out bags by retail establishments to any customer. Per legislative findings outlined in the ordinance, 4 billion single-use shopping bags are used annually in the Garden State and carry adverse affects on marline life given micro-plastic pollution in oceans, which can enter the human food chain.    

“The Mayor and Council together with the Environmental Commission worked hard over a year on the new ordinance,” said Mayor Richard LaBarbiera. “We listened to residents and businesses that chose to participate in the process. Currently, there are over 300 million tons of plastic generated every year, 50 percent of which is single-use plastic. While we are not going to stop this overnight, we strongly believe that what was a bipartisan approval is environmentally responsible and a step in the right direction to reduce plastic waste and something we can build on.” 

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Shoppers are encouraged to use reusable cloth bags. In turn, stores may provide a credit to customers who choose to bring their own bags. Stores are asked to educate their staff to promote the use of reusable bags and display signs encouraging customers to do the same. In addition, the town is also encouraging stores to start a take back program with plastic bags. 

The new law also mandates that food vendors wrap and package food in degradable packaging in lieu of polystyrene foam. 

According to the ordinance, polystyrene foam contains styrene, a known neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen which, from the disposable food service ware and packaging, get into food and drink, potentially threatening human health. Presently, it occupies nearly 30 percent of landfill space in America and 38 percent of all plastic pollution in the Hackensack River. 

Paramus departments are prohibited from purchasing polystyrene foam disposable food service ware and packaging. Instead, they must use recyclable or compostable disposable food service ware and packaging unless it can be shown that a recyclable or compostable product is not available for a specific application. The only exemptions include flexible transparent covering for raw food, baked goods or bread, disposable food service ware and packaging used at hospitals or nursing homes. 

Those stores wishing to request an exemption must send an explanatory letter to the governing body and the Environmental Commission about why a compliant bag would “impose undue hardship” on the consumer along with a $100 request fee. 

Violators of the new law are subject to penalties — $100 after the first written notice of the initial violation, $200 after the second, and $500 after the third and subsequent ones. 

“Paramus is the retail capital of the region and are pleased with all the businesses that have jumped onboard and are hopeful will be the model for other communities,” said Mayor LaBarbiera. “As a society, we figured it out before plastics even existed and will do the same come January 1 after some are banned, and trust in short time, the consumer will simply adjust.”   

On New Year’s Day, Stop and Shop, located at 859 South, NJ-17 in Paramus, will give away 300 reusable bags to help local customers with the transition to the plastic bag ban on a first-come, first-served basis.   

“Stop & Shop wants to help customers make the transition away from plastic and encourages all to utilize reusable bags as it is the most sustainable choice for the environment,” read a press release from the supermarket. “Together with its parent company Ahold Delhaize, Stop & Shop has successfully removed more than 1 billion plastic bags from the waste stream to date.”