Doylestown Borough Council passed a resolution by an 8-1 vote Monday night to reduce the distribution of single-use plastics in the borough. Councilman Joe Flood was the lone dissenting vote.
The Environment and Recreation Committee of the Doylestown Borough Council encouraged reducing the distribution of single-use plastics for borough residents.
“It is important to reduce the use of single-use plastics at local, state, national, and international levels because they are designed to be used once, yet they last forever, polluting the environment and harming animals, and possibly humans,” Councilwoman Wendy Margolis, has said. She heads the environment and recreation committee.
The borough’s research on the impact of single use, non-recyclable plastics began back in 2016 with the environment and recreation committee and environmental advisory council (EAC). Earlier this year, the borough council advanced its research and gathered public feedback on the possibility of adopting an ordinance to ban the distribution of certain single-use plastics.
The results of the survey were overwhelmingly positive. Of the 2,232 Doylestown residents and business owners who took the survey, 70 percent said they would support a ban of the distribution of single-use plastic bags by Doylestown Borough businesses.
“Our constituents were asking for it and other nearby municipalities, including Lambertville and Narberth, were banning plastics,” Margolis said. “We found there are so many simple alternatives to single use plastics. For bags people can use reusable ones, for straws use cardboard ones or don’t use one at all. There would be exemptions for those with disabilities who must rely on plastic straws.”
The borough’s possible ordinance includes banning single-use plastic straws with certain exemptions, including exemptions for people with disabilities, and requires that business owners charge 10 cents per single use plastic bag, with certain exemptions.
Despite the positive feedback from the community the council is prohibited by state statute from passing plastics ordinances until June 2020.
“A state legislator succeeded in attaching a rider on the budget bill that created a moratorium. This state legislator represents Centre County, where there is the only plastic bag factory in the state,” explained Margolis.
Not every Doylestown council member is excited at the thought of a plastic-straw-free town.
Flood said he worries it will make difficult for those with special needs. He said for many people with disabilities, going without plastic straws isn’t a question of how much they care about dolphins or sea turtles; it can be a matter of life or death.
Flood pointed out that the survey didn’t ask questions about people with special needs.
“It would’ve been nice if we had included them in the dialogue at the beginning,” Flood said.
“We’ve always been planning to allow anyone who needs a straw to ask for one,” Margolis replied. “ it wasn’t in the survey,” Flood shot back.
“We wanted to take the pulse of the community in terms of the issues that we felt maybe disputed or contentious in some way but the idea of making straws available to anyone who needed them is an issue that we felt would not in any way be in dispute so there was not a lot of utility in adding that there’s an additional survey question,” added councilman Ben Bell.
“It would’ve been nice to ask the question,” Flood said.
Margolis said, “The draft ordinance that we will present to council when the state moratorium is lifted includes the following language, which is why the question was not included in the survey: “Single-use plastic straws shall mean a straw provided by a commercial establishment that is not a resuable straw, recyclable paper straw, or compostable straw.”
Added to the draft ordinance is a statement that a single-use plastic straw shall not include straws when provided as an assistance device to reasonably accommodate a disability”