Time To Get Ready, the Single-Use Plastics Ban Is Coming

We share with you the latest news release from the NJ DEP about the ban on single-use plastic products such as carryout bags and polystyrene foam food service products that will take effect in one year. We urge local businesses to prepare now for the new requirements. In fact, you don’t need to wait. You can join with our state leaders and lead the way in protecting our New Jersey environment.

“On Nov. 4, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law P.L. 2020, c117, which prohibits the use of single-use plastic carryout bags in all stores and food service businesses statewide and single-use paper carryout bags in grocery stores that occupy at least 2,500 square feet beginning May 4, 2022. The law is designed to reduce pollution and protect New Jersey’s environment and economy for generations to come.

“With the enactment of the single-use plastic ban, New Jersey, is again leading in protecting our environment, communities, and economy,” said DEP Acting Commissioner LaTourette. “Resistant to natural degradation, single-use plastics have long littered our communities and harmed our waterways and the wildlife that depend on them. Plastic pollution also has a detrimental effect on character of our communities and damages important industries like tourism and fishing—both major contributors to New Jersey’s economy. The steps we take together to reduce plastic pollution will improve quality of life for all New Jersey residents.”

“We love New Jersey beaches, forests and waterways, and we want to protect them for current and future resident and visitors to enjoy,” Secretary Way said. “We’re here to support New Jersey’s businesses as they make the transition to reusable bags. We understand that these changes take time. We’ll be here to help business owners understand the law and answer any question they may have as we look ahead to May 2022.”

Beginning May 4, 2022, New Jersey businesses may not sell or provide single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers. Those businesses that decide to sell or provide reusable carryout bags must ensure that the bags meet the requirements as defined in the law.

The law defines reusable bags as ones that:

  • Are made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, hemp product, or other washable fabric; and
  • Have stitched handles; and
  • Are designed and manufactured for multiple reuses.

To help New Jersey businesses prepare, the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), part of the New Jersey Department of State, and the DEP have developed online resources. The State’s business-focused website Business.NJ.gov as well as the DEP website (www.nj.gov/dep/dshw/plastic-ban-law/) feature the latest information on the law. The business experts on the NJBAC website’s Live Chat and at 1-800-Jersey-7 are available 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday, for the information you need to comply with the new law.

Future resources for businesses on the website will include a listing of vendors who sell reusable carryout bags that meet the new requirements. In addition, the NJBAC will be conducting virtual roundtables discussing implementation of the law with Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations around the State.

Under the new law, polystyrene foam food service products and foods sold or provided in polystyrene foam food service products will also be banned as of May 4, 2022, and food service businesses will only be allowed to provide single-use plastic straws by request starting Nov. 4, 2021.

However, the following products will be exempt for an additional two years, until May 4, 2024:

  • Disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
  • Portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
  • Meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance;
  • Any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product; and
  • Any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by the DEP.

Additional online resources for the general public may be found on the NJ Clean Communities website’s www.BagUpNJ.com and www.njclean.org.”1

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/newsrel/2021/21_0505.htm

Going Green in Mercer County with Meals on Wheels

By Joanne Mullowney

Most overviews covering the current state of recycling in the United States are pretty grim.  From the lack of markets and escalating costs, to contamination, to the prevalence of materials in our everyday lives that need to be recycled;  the effort to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” the mass of potential recyclables in our trash is not one of our proudest achievements.  And, getting most of the public to recognize the extent of the crisis and make the changes needed to both their consumption (think bottled water) and recycling habits has not been overly successful.  That is why we are delighted to highlight the work of local non-profit Meals on Wheels of Mercer County (MOWMC) in making changes to their operations during 2019 that significantly reduce their non-recyclable output.  Their willingness to take the initiative in finding ways to reduce their reliance on single-use plastic bags is a success story of which they can be justly proud.

I sat down with Meals on Wheels Chief Executive Officer Sasa Olessi Montaño last week to learn more about their efforts to reduce the use of plastic in their operations.  Meals on Wheels of Mercer County is a local non-profit that provides daily, home-delivered meals to individuals who are homebound, and are unable to shop or prepare meals for themselves. These “meals-on-wheels” are delivered by volunteers five days per week and may include weekend meals. The meals are prepared at Rider University and up to two meals per day are available to participants.  This process necessitates a lot of packaging.

“In late 2019,” Olessi Montaño shared, “Meals on Wheels switched from using single-use plastic bags for meal deliveries to reusable shopping bags.  With over 250 deliveries each day, what seems like a small change will save an estimated 60,000 bags from going into landfills each year.”  In addition, MOWMC has been making changes to its operations over the past years to become more sustainable.  The organization now serves the entrees and salads in eco-friendly, compostable containers made from natural fibers.  The cold drinks such as milk and juice are served in recyclable containers.  No utensils or straws are dispensed.

There is one last piece in the meals that MOWMC staff are working to resolve.  State regulations require a programmatic safeguard of keeping the hot and cold items separated.  Cold items are currently placed in separate small white plastic bags.  Since condensation from the cold items could dissolve paper bags, greening this aspect of the operation remains to be worked out and is under discussion with the caterer.

The decision to jettison the plastic bags also involved weighing the environmental benefits with the needs of both the volunteers and the program participants.  Participants generally fall into three categories: those who are fully functional and able to carry both the hot and the cold portions of the delivery from the door to their interiors without assistance; those who use walkers when coming to the door and are thus unable to transport their meal to the kitchen without bags; and those who allow the Meals on Wheels volunteer to carry their meals indoors for them.  Volunteers were asked to identify the second type of participant throughout the delivery routes and those participants were given extra reusable bags to keep and hang on their walkers to transport their food deliveries from the door.

Most volunteers (over 90%) were very pleased that MOWMC was making a very positive environmental change and some 40% said that they had abandoned using the plastic bags for quite some time on their own.   Others are gradually coming on board with the need for the change.  The program participants also embraced the change without difficulty. CEO Olessi Montaño said that she was very pleased with the success of the adoption of the new procedures and the donation of reusable bags from Ewing ShopRite and Whole Foods in Princeton that helped make it possible, commenting that “Mercer County is a very giving community and that both businesses are great neighbors and community partners.”

We are delighted with the positive changes in their operations that Meals on Wheels has embraced.  Not only do they make a difference daily to the lives of their program participants, but they are also contributing positive environmental changes to our little section of the planet while accomplishing their mission.  A positive and heartening lesson for us all!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING RECYCLING COLLECTION

We are in the midst of the worst recycling environment which we have seen in the last 20 years and all indications are that the market for recycling materials will not improve in the foreseeable future.  You may have read about the restrictions placed by China on importing recyclable materials from the United States.  China has closed its doors to many types of recycling materials and is requiring that the material be free from contamination.

China was the largest consumer of US recyclable volume and no longer is purchasing the volumes that it did in the past.  This means that there is a glut of supply in the market which is significantly driving down the value of this materials.  As a result, in many cities across the nation, recyclables are ending up in landfills.

We ask that all residents keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind when recycling:

Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO remember the first of the 3Rs of recycling: Reduce. Make every effort to reduce the amount of waste that you produce.  Single-use plastics are a significant component of that waste stream because they “don’t go away and essentially, last forever.  Make every effort to eliminate single-use items such as plastic grocery bags, straws, utensils and cups, bottled water, take-out containers…   Use reusable versions of those products instead.
  • DO recycle all empty bottles, cans, paper and cardboard.
  • DO recycle clean materials: i.e. keep foods and liquids out of recycling.
  • DO keep plastic bags out of recycling.
  • DO check out this site for more information about how you can do your share to Reduce | Reuse | Recycle.
  • DON’T bag your recyclables. Plastic bags and film get tangled in the machinery.  (Our local supermarkets have plastic bag collection bins at their entrances.)
  • DON’T include soiled food items. They can turn an entire load of recycling into trash.
  • DON’T add sharp or dangerous materials like needles and electronics. They can cause injury to workers.
  • DON’T include bulky items like propane tanks or construction debris (no wood). The Township Convenience Center at 136 Scotch Road will take a lot of materials that you cannot leave at the curb.  Please check our website or call 609- 882-3382 for accepted materials.
  • DON’T add items that are not on the list of accepted materials. This will contaminate the entire load.

We thank you for your anticipated cooperation and efforts to reduce our community’s impact on the environment.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate the Township’s Recycling Coordinator, Tom Elder at 609-882-3382 X 6404.

View the Announcement

Ewing Better Bag Project

Hello Ewing Green Team Friends!   My name is Patrick Otey and for my BSA Eagle Project I have chosen to work with the Ewing Green Team to create a new initiative called The Ewing Better Bag Project.   In an effort to promote sustainability and reduce plastic waste, I will be conducting a citizen survey aimed at discovering what customers are doing with the plastic bags they get while shopping and encouraging them to use reusable bags instead.

By helping to educate citizens about the harmful lasting effects of plastic bags and providing them with several free reusable bags, it is my hope that more people will take this small but important step to alter their shopping habits to help the environment. I will be hosting an information table, conducting surveys, and distributing free reusable bags donated by Ewing Township and Mercer County at several Ewing retailers on the following dates:

  • Sunday July 9:  11:00 – 2:00 pm , at Shoprite of Ewing
  • Saturday July 15:  10:00 – 1:00pm, at the Trenton Farmer’s Market

Thank you for supporting this important effort!  We hope to see you at these events.

Patrick Otey