SOMERS POINT — The city is enacting a plastic bag ban, like those that have been adopted in Brigantine, Avalon and Stone Harbor.
The ordinance amended Somers Point’s previous policy, which allowed customers to purchase plastic bags for a 5-cent surcharge. That fee has now been eliminated, and plastic bags will no longer be offered at stores such as ShopRite.
City Council voted 4-3 in favor of the ban Sept. 12.
There will be a 120-day grace period after the acceptance of the policy for retailers to use their existing supplies before the ban goes into effect.
Council members Kirk Gerety, Dennis Tapp, Janice Johnston and James Toto voted in favor of the ban, while councilmen Carl D’Adamo, Howard Dill and Sean McGuigan opposed it.
Among those voting against the ordinance, there seemed to be a desire to let the state dictate environmental policy rather than cities and towns taking the lead.
“The state is acting on this, and it would be better with a statewide regulation,” D’Adamo said, feeling that people might look to shop elsewhere if there is no consistency in the surrounding areas’ policies.
Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill that would have resulted in a statewide fee on single-use plastic and paper bags in August 2018, arguing the bill did not go far enough in protecting New Jersey’s environment. A new proposal has yet to make it to Murphy’s desk.
Somers Point grocer donating bag fees to Brigantine stranding center
“The city has anti-littering laws in place that are used to combat pollution and garbage in our streets, parks and waterways,” Council President McGuigan said. “I don’t believe that it is in a local municipal government’s purview to regulate local businesses in this way.”
Some Somers Point businesses, such as Santori’s Deli & Produce, rather than keep the fee, donated to nonprofit organizations, ensuring they were doing their part to help the environment even when customers asked for plastic. Santori’s made monthly contributions to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, which helped fund federally mandated lab tests.
The pressure to enact these bans is especially high in shore towns due to the level of ocean pollution attributed to plastics.
Former Councilman Ron Meischker, who resigned in July, spearheaded the initial plastic-bag ban initiative. He said he felt a full ban was the next logical step.
“A full ban on single-use plastic bags was the next natural progression in the process of eliminating single-use plastic bags,” Meischker said. “I support and applaud my former council colleagues for taking the next step to protect our environment.”