Just because someone writes for a certain newspaper doesn’t mean they necessarily agree with the editorial opinions of said paper. Case in point: Last week’s Observer editorial, “Kearny Council blunders by banning plastic bags.”
My personal reaction to the Council’s decision was, “Way to go, politicos! What took you so long?”
Actually, I won’t be fully content until such a ban is enacted and enforced statewide in New Jersey.
Coincidentally, right after The Observer came out, so did a news report reminding folks that such a statewide ban will take effect in New York next week.
The prohibition here in Kearny (but not until April 2021), soon to be in New York and already statewide in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont, applies to those flimsy, non-recyclable, chintzy, single-use plastic bags that infest supermarkets and other stores. You know, the bags you see blowing across highways and meadows, floating in rivers and streams and fluttering from tree branches.
According to one report on the New York law, New Yorkers have been using (i.e.. wasting, polluting with) 23 billion of these bags per year. (I don’t know the Jersey figure, but I wonder if Walmart shoplifters alone don’t account for a billion or so. Of course, many Walmart shoplifters use their purses or pockets, so perhaps I’m being a bit unfair.)
In any case, under the Kearny law, to better accommodate certain types of businesses there will be numerous exceptions. (See last week’s p. 1 story for the list.)
But shoppers should have the ability to purchase, at a minimal price, recyclable, reusable plastic bags. Where I shop, on the other side of the Passaic, some stores have been selling these — or giving them out for free! — for some time.
You can also buy large, sturdy, double-handle reusables for a few bucks — sometimes as little as 99¢. I have been using bags like this for years now, and they can last for years. They’re available in supermarkets, dollar stores, some drugstores, etc.
I also take exception to The Observer’s complaint that “it is wholly unfair to expect people who don’t drive . . . to haul a load of bags home that do not have handles.” The old, brown-paper grocery bags had no handles, but brown-paper bags I’ve seen in stores these days are so equipped.
As for shoppers abandoning Kearny businesses to avoid the hardship of a recyclable-bag fee, how are they going to get to the out-of-town stores? Drive (and use up gasoline)? Take a bus, a cab, Uber? Does that make fiscal sense?
The Observer calls the Kearny ordinance “a monumental mistake.” No, that mistake was society’s permitting plastics pollution to grow unchecked. It’s about time we corrected it.
Karen Zautyk has written for The Observer since 2008. She was a long-serving member of the Editorial Board of The New York Daily News prior, where she won a 1999 Pulitzer Prize.