by Russ Crespolini
CHATHAM, NJ – Both Chatham Township and Chatham Borough have banned single-use plastic bags by adopting new ordinances within a week of each other.
It was unanimous in the Borough, but a 3-1 vote in the Township, but both governing bodies in Chatham have moved forward with ordinances after a public hearings in the Township Oct. 10 and in the Borough on Tuesday.
Both ordinances will take effect in March of 2020.
According to officials, under the Northern Jersey Sustainable Municipal Alliance, the Environmental Commissions of Chatham, Madison and Chatham Township and the umbrella group developed the model ordinance prohibiting single-use plastic bags in each town. The goal was to have all three communities coordinate.
Madison and Chatham Borough are including a 10 cent fee for paper bags, but Chatham Township is leaving it up to the retailer. This is one of the reasons Chatham Township Committeeman Curt Ritter, who not present at the meeting for the final vote, voted against the ordinance at introduction. The no vote Thursday belonged to Karen Swartz.
“The interest in this regulation is based on the support of 1 percent of our residents the other 99 percent don’t care or voiced their opinion by not taking the survey which has been widely publicized and circulated over the past nine months,” Ritter told Patch. “Why not focus on education vs. regulation and work alongside these businesses to encourage shoppers to go green?”
Ritter also took exception with the fee for the paper bags.
“Our ordinance also doesn’t set a fee for paper bags, but leaves it up to the retailer, yet we don’t know if they’ll charge 10 cents or 50 cents. That’s a considerable tax for people regardless of your income level,” Ritter said. “It all seems very rushed and I think this is an excellent opportunity for the Township to work with our retailers to find a sensible environmentally friendly solution through education vs. regulation.”
Committeewoman Tracy Ness said the plastic bag ordinance is in keeping with the water conservation element of our Master Plan and upholds the townships long history of environmental stewardship.
“And we know from the Great Swamp Watershed Association that microplastics are present in the Township in the Passaic River and Great Swamp,” Ness said. “There was no rush. The environmental commission made a presentation in June laying out a timeline for introduction in October. Input was sought by business owners and residents.”
Ness said drinking water is not to a partisan issue.
“We greatly appreciate the numerous residents, students and environmental groups who came out to support this effort,” she said.
The ordinances call for an escalating series of penalties for violators after a written warning:
• $100 fine for a first violation
• $200 for a second violation
• $500 for a third violation
• $500 fine for each additional violation
Read the nj.com article, “More and more N.J. towns are banning plastic bags. Check out the growing list.”