Last night, the Maplewood Township Committee voted unanimously to reject Ordinance 2923-18, which aimed “to reduce the use of disposable paper and plastic checkout bags by retail establishments in the Township of Maplewood” by requiring retail establishments within the township of Maplewood to collect a 10-cents-per-bag passthrough charge from customers requesting disposable paper and plastic checkout bags.
However, the town — like the State of New Jersey — could be rejecting the fee only to consider the more sweeping measure of an outright ban on plastic bags and straws.
Kurt Kiley and India Larrier spoke on behalf of the Maplewood Senior Advisory Committee against the ordinance at last night’s meeting, citing its potential impact on senior citizens on a fixed income.
In addition, a representative of Kings supermarkets said that the surcharge would put Kings Maplewood at a competitive disadvantage to nearby supermarkets in neighboring towns — such as Ashley’s Marketplace in South Orange and Whole Foods in Union.
Grocery stores are “a penny business,” she said, “meaning we make slim margins.”
While some TC members balked at Kings’ objections (said Nancy Adams, “Kings doesn’t compete on a price basis. .. You compete on quality. …”), they agreed that a complete ban on plastic bags, which the State of New Jersey is now contemplating, could be a better resolution.
“There seems to be some sense that the Murphy administration is going to support the banning of plastic bags,” said Mayor Vic DeLuca.
DeLuca also noted that Kings clearly was on the same page with the town in seeing the environmental impact of plastic bags since it already gives a 4-cent credit to customers for each reusable bag they bring to the store.
“So on a values basis we are on the same page,” said DeLuca.
However, other local residents supported the surcharge and were worried that the town would delay taking action on reducing the use of plastic bags if it rejected the ordinance.
Jamaine Cripe told the TC that she “respectfully” disagreed with those who opposed the ordinance, feeling that seniors and others were already re-using bags and saving money doing it. At one point, she left the meeting room to run to her car to bring in the many reusable bags that she carried around with her — saying that many of the bags were obtained for free from town events or from stores themselves.
“I also walk around this town a lot and one thing I see a lot is plastic bags,” said Cripe, who noted that the bags were often the cause of blocked drains in rainstorms. “They cause more environmental problems than we actually understand.”
After public comments, DeLuca explained that he was in contact with governor’s office and that he thought the ordinance as written needed to be rejected as many more factors needed to be considered.
Other Township Committee members agreed. Deputy Mayor Frank McGehee said he had talked to many merchants and residents and that it had been an “educational process.”
Dean Dafis noted that he thought that even though those on Federal or State assistance would have been exempt from the fees, they would still have been stigmatized by having to show ID to have the fees waived.
Greg Lembrich said, “I don’t think we necessarily have to wait for the State, but we have to get it right. … We can improve this.”
Adams agreed that the ordinance “could be tightened up … but it needs to happen.”
After the ordinance failed unanimously, DeLuca said, “So we have our work to do!”