I was heartened to read the letters in the last issue speaking to the need for West Windsor to directly address the problem of single-use plastics. Our Environmental Commission (EC) has been discussing an ordinance that would reduce single-use bag use (i.e., grocery bags) by prohibiting local businesses from offering them—and at their 9/12 meeting, they approved a resolution urging Town Council to adopt such an ordinance, with a packed room of supportive residents in attendance.
As a mom and scientist, I am grateful that our EC is acting proactively. And I urge our government leaders to follow suit, and show environmental leadership on the issue of single-use plastics. I join many in our community who embrace sustainability measures like this ordinance that will future proof West Windsor.
The United Nations Environmental Program published a comprehensive report in 2018 highlighting the global need to reduce our dependency on single-use plastics. Plastic is one of our greatest inventions, but we need to be judicious about its use. In exchange for a minor convenience, we are generating a product using fossil fuels that will not biodegrade, contaminating our environment and poisoning animals. There’s a direct concern for our health as researchers study the impacts of ingesting microplastics, the microscopic “degradation” products of plastic waste. Recycling alone is not the solution to our plastic overuse: 90% of our plastics are not recycled.
Other nations have acted boldly to reduce their overuse. Taiwan passed an ambitious, comprehensive ban last year. India announced a similar comprehensive ban in August. In the past five years, eight U.S. states have passed state-wide bans on single-use plastic bags. Over 30 N.J. municipalities have passed bans, including our neighbor Hopewell Borough.
There are so many different models we can use to begin to curb our plastic overuse, so I hope we do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In fact, the language of the ordinance that was discussed within our EC uses successful ordinances from across the state as models. The ordinance also has a phase-in period until next May to allow for additional education and outreach. It exempts produce bags, so we will still be able to handle raw meats hygienically. It does not impact the local farmers who sell produce at the West Windsor Farmer’s Market. It has a clause if local businesses need to apply for an exemption due to hardship with compliance. And it makes allowances to prevent negative impacts on the most vulnerable community members—those who are on public assistance.
The culture-shift to consistently bringing our own reusable bags may be challenging for some of us. But this action is necessary—we do not need to use these plastics. We must preserve our limited natural resources for future generations. As evidenced by the letter written by our high school students, our kids are asking us to demonstrate we have the political will to do the right thing—and act for their sakes.
Lin is a candidate for West Windsor Council