“It was never meant to be this way,” Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora said in reference to ShopRite’s interpretation of the town’s new plastic bag ordinance that went into effect two weeks ago. The store’s new, thicker, bright yellow plastic bags are meant to replace single-use plastic bags because the thicker ones are technically reusable, but they do not solve the problem the ordinance was put in place to address, he said. The bags do not meet the code’s requirements; they are not machine washable; and they “are absolutely not recyclable,” he said. “Please do not put them in recycling cans.”
At his final meeting as mayor in Stafford Township, Spodofora attempted to clear up some ongoing confusion surrounding plastic bags and recycling procedures.
He described ShopRite’s policy of charging customers 10 cents per bag as “concerning,” given the plastic bags cost the store 4 cents apiece, and paper bags cost the store 9 cents, and the previous (single-use) plastic bags and paper bags were formerly free to customers.
“The ordinance was not meant for anyone to make money off of,” Spodofora said. “Nobody should profit from this.”
Meanwhile, Ocean County Recycling sent a letter dated Dec. 3 regarding “a major problem” affecting the program’s bottom line: Truckloads of recycling material contaminated with trash and non-recyclable items are rejected because they interfere with the processing equipment. Last year, the recycling program lost $200,000 in revenue due to improper recycling practices, according to the letter. As a result, there may come a time when the county can no longer accept towns’ recyclables at no cost. When the municipal users’ agreement with the county expires at the end of 2019, renewal agreements may have to implement cost-sharing (tipping fees, etc.) to offset potential losses due to market conditions.
“This is why it’s so very important that all municipalities take an active role to address contamination of the recycling stream,” Spodofora read from the letter.
The county is already “clamping down,” he said, on trucks bringing contaminated loads, rejecting them and sending them to landfills instead, at cost to the town.
The issue, he said, is not just environmental, but economic.
Plastic bags continue to be a big part of the problem when people fill them with recyclables and then place them in recycling bins. Spodofora said he prays for a statewide plastic bag ban to end the irresponsible practices. To a consumer, a 10-cent plastic bag may be cheaper than a more durable reusable tote, but the better bags hold at least twice as much volumetric material. “There’s just no excuse.”