Stafford Township — As the summer months drew closer, several retailers in Stafford Township started ramping up their signage urging customers to remember an important aspect of their shopping experience at those particular stores. “Local ordinance in effect,” read the tri-fold post signs wrapped around posts in front of some of the parking spaces at both the Wawa stores on routes 9 and 72. “Remember to bring your reusable bags!”
By now, most consumers within Stafford or those from surrounding communities who regularly shop in town know a single-use plastic bag ban has been in place since Dec. 6, 2018. However, for many who come from faraway places to vacation on Long Beach Island or in rental homes along the bayside on the mainland, and shop at the town’s stores during the summer, this may be shocking news.
But it is true – no retailers within Stafford borders are giving out single-use plastic bags, or, at least, they shouldn’t be. At most stores, a consumer’s options are paper and reusable fabric bags, with only a small number offering “reusable” plastic bags of some type, such as ShopRite in the Stafford Square shopping plaza and Five Below in Stafford Park as well as Acme Market in the downtown area.
“I, personally, have not heard of any complaints, from residents or businesses, about the ban,” said Stafford Mayor Gregory Myhre, who took office a few weeks after the ban officially took hold. “I’m sure some people are still upset about it, and that’s probably something which will remain for a while. I’ve encouraged people to reach out to me with their feedback on it, good or bad.”
For now, though, Stafford Township’s Ordinance 2018-06 will remain intact as it was adopted last July, with no changes by the town council in the immediate forecast, Myhre said.
“We have no pending change of regulations regarding the bag ban on the agenda right now or for the near future,” he said. “It seems the stores have invested enough to make the changes necessary to comply with the ordinance, and we don’t want to make any quick moves on anything with it. We’ll make more deliberate moves if we think it’s needed. Right now, it’s more about hearing feedback from residents and business owners.”
So, if you’re visiting the area for the summer – whether it be for a week or all of July and August – this is your warning. If you shop in Stafford Township, bring bags with you or you’re going to have to use whatever a particular store offers, if it offers any.
At Target in Stafford Park and other retailers along the Route 72 corridor, Staples and Michaels among them, the primary option will be a paper bag. At Walmart, your only option is to pay for a reusable fabric bag, use your own bag, or cart your items to your vehicle. At ShopRite, you can pay 10 cents per paper or heavy-duty plastic bag or purchase a reusable fabric bag for longer use. Of course, bringing your own reusable bags – or single-use bags, if there are any stored in your vehicle – may be the best alternative for many consumers who don’t want to use paper or purchase additional bags.
To clarify, the ban relates only to certain types of plastic bags: “carry-out” and single-use bags “for the purpose of transporting products or goods out of the business or store.” The ban does not prevent consumers from bringing any type of bag with them to carry out items from a store, even single-use plastic ones.
Also, the ban does not include plastic bags for produce, meat, fish or poultry, frozen foods, fresh flowers and deli items; bags for medical purposes; bags used by pet stores to sell and transport live fish; dry cleaner or door-hanger garment bags; plastic bags sold in packages, such as garbage can or litter box liners; or bags used to deliver food items to customers on food assistance programs.
The ordinance language dubs a “reusable bag” as such: “a bag that is designed and manufactured to withstand repeated uses over a period of time, is machine washable or made from a material that can be cleaned and disinfected regularly, has a minimum of 75 uses, and is capable of carrying a minimum of 18 pounds.” The ordinance doesn’t prohibit retailers from charging for the bags it provides.
Similar ordinances exist in Long Beach Township, Harvey Cedars and Beach Haven.
— David Biggy