WESTFIELD, NJ — Plastic bags have gotten a beating lately with some municipalities instituting outright bans on their use by retailers and state lawmakers considering what has been called the strongest set of plastics regulations in the nation.

Westfield’s Green Team, however, is taking an approach that does not involve regulation.

It is giving away reusable bags and metal straws. The Green Team secured a $2,000 Sustainable Jersey grant from PSEG Foundation for an initiative encouraging residents and businesses to choose reusable bags and metal straws, therefore promoting sustainability, town officials announced Tuesday.

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“Our goal is by focusing on both ends of the equation — shoppers and businesses — we can significantly lessen the impact of single-use plastics,” said Councilman David Contract, Green Team Liaison, in a news release.

The grant will fund the purchase of several hundred reusable bags and metal straws for local businesses to provide customers. At its first free market earlier this month the Green Team distributed 600 reusable bags with the Westfield Town logo along with metal straws. Funding for those was provided for by the municipality, said the town's spokeswoman, Kim Forde.

The grant for Westfield’s purchase of the additional straws and bags was among 36 Sustainable Jersey grants totaling $200,000 given to municipalities in 15 New Jersey counties, officials said. In addition to funding campaigns to reduce people’s use of plastics, the monies fund green infrastructure and rain gardens, according to Sustainable Jersey. To be eligible for the funding, municipalities must be certified with the nonprofit, which provides tools, training and financial incentives for taking actions that pursue sustainability programs.

Westfield first started working toward its certification in 2010.

The $2,000 grant specific to a Green Team project was among 25 in that amount given to Green Teams in New Jersey. Other Green Teams to get funding this year included those in Summit, Garwood, Edison and Wyckoff.

The PSEG Foundation is the charitable arm of PSE&G’s parent company, Public Service Enterprise Group.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant to help advance our ongoing sustainability efforts here in Westfield,” Mayor Shelley Brindle said. “Thanks to the innovative thinking of our Green Team and their partnership with the Downtown Westfield Corporation, this single-use plastics reduction initiative in our Downtown businesses will be an important new step in reducing waste and promoting awareness among residents.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @Matt Kadosh

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