At our January 2, 2019 meeting of the Board of Commissioners, I raised an important issue effecting our environment. It is astonishing to pause and think for a moment about that simple bag we all see at the check out counter. A single use plastic bag.
The issue was brought to my attention (and to that of many in our community) by 12-year-old Girl Scout Braden Somers of John H. Walker Middle School. Haven spoken with Braden and her parents, and seeing her level of research and advocacy at such a young age, inspired me to do my own investigating and subsequently call for action.
I started to investigate what happens to these bags and what are they doing to our environment. Here are some facts:
- Over 100 billion bags are used each year across the United States.
- Over 4 billion bags are used each year in New Jersey
- Over 500 bags are used by most people individually each year.
- These bags are not biodegradable and cannot be recycled.
So what happens to them? The vast majority are collected in our garbage each week and this garbage finds its way to a landfill. It’s amazing, though, that these bags find their from our into our waterways and oceans. Each bag – since it is not biodegradable – takes at least 150 year to break down. And when they do, they release chemical contaminants into the soil.
Since they can’t be recycled, there are sensible alternatives. While paper bags are biodegradable, using these bags is a choice. The next time you are at the checkout counter and use are offered paper or plastic take the paper. Biodegradable single use plastic bags are better the non-biodegradable alternative. However, they do take 50 years to breakdown in the soil and the release of chemicals remains a problem.
Another option to consider: reusable biodegradable bags. These bags can handle over 20 pounds of food, and they can be used over and over again.
Imagine the next time you drive by the Passaic River at low tide and all you will see is what is natural to the environment. Think about our waterways and marinelife that wont be plagued by these bags floating along in the water.
Whether they slip into our waterways from our landfills, whether the wind picks them up and drops into our waterways, or simply neglect, the result is the same. We are damaging our environment. We are risking our marinelife and we are putting a food source at risk.
Over 30 municipalities have enacted ordinances banning the use of single use plastic bags.
There is bill currently pending in our New Jersey Senate which would not only ban single use plastic bags, but would also include plastic straws, styroform and other plastic items. And, instead of dumping these bags they can be used to manufacture valuable building products such as benches, planking for outdoor decks to name a few.
So here is the pitch…
Please join me in building greater awareness of this issue. Over the coming months I will be reaching out to residents and business owners to build support for our own ordinance. Nutley has always been a great place to live and raise a family. Let’s join together and make sure we can do our part to address this issue. Further, we have the opportunity here in Nutley to be leaders in this movement and help shape regional change, and hopefully beyond.
I would ask that while more committee time is needed please step up and stop using these single use plastic bags.
Support the Green Committee of Nutley, and thank you Braden for your leadership. I hope to work with you in bettering our community and world.