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Newtown Twp to enforce plastic bag ban starting April 9


Newtown Township Supervisors this month voted 4-1 to enact a plastics ordinance that bans certain types of single-use plastic bags in addition to Styrofoam food containers, plastic straws, disposable utensils, and other items.

Supervisors Dennis Fisher, Phil Calabro, John Mack and Elen Snyder voted in favor of the ordinance while Supervisor Kyle Davis voted against it.

Snyder in particular, as board liaison to the township environmental advisory council, has championed the ordinance, saying it is a good “first step” for Newtown Township, which now joins a growing list of local municipalities that are enacting plastic bag and other plastic item bans in their communities.

Snyder stressed throughout this and previous meetings that Newtown Township wants to protect the environment. The plastics ban is the latest action on that front.

Enforcement begins on April 9, 2024. That way, the supervisors reason, local businesses will have time to exhaust any current supplies of plastic bags and other items they may have.

Businesses will also be permitted to apply for a one-year exemption from the ordinance. But once April 9 arrives, those that don’t have exemptions and don’t comply will receive written warnings for a first offense. A second offense would carry a civil penalty of $50 while a third would generate a $100-fine. For a fourth and any subsequent offenses, a $200-fine would be assessed.

Snyder said at a previous meeting that the township is not interested in punishing businesses or residents that currently use plastic bags. Instead, she said Newtown Township would like to encourage the use of reusable canvas bags and the like in order to reduce its plastic output.

“What we are doing is encouraging, we want people to bring in their own bags, that’s the whole idea,” she said. “But for giving out paper bags, there will be a standard, and it will have to be a recyclable paper bag and 95% of the businesses in Newtown Township already do that.”

Not all Newtown residents are in favor of the move though, including two residents who spoke at the Dec. 6 meeting.

“I do not agree with this because I don’t think it’s right that politicians should be telling businesses what they can and can not do,” said Newtown resident Bradley Cooper.

He went on to cite a study he said showed that reusable canvas and cotton bags are not as good for the environment as once thought. Newtown resident John D’Aprile agreed with Cooper, saying that the issue shouldn’t even be broached at a local level.

“The environment is a problem, but let someone higher than small Newtown Township take care of this,” D’Aprile said. “You know it’s kind of ridiculous to be doing this in little Newtown. A large city, O.K., but if you look at who’s doing it, it’s the big Democratic cities. Stop pushing that agenda on little Newtown.”

Snyder disagreed with D’Aprile’s characterization of the ordinance, saying moving away from plastic bags and other items in an effort to help the environment is not a one-sided issue.

“This is not a Democratic thing, this is a bipartisan thing,” she said. “If you go to each and every business in Newtown, no matter what affiliation, they are for helping the environment. We talked to over 115 businesses and created a business email list that is constantly being updated.”

She added that “95%” of the municipality’s businesses are already in compliance and others are “very willing” to comply. The ordinance is the product of more than four years of effort and, according to Snyder, it’s “a real feather in our cap.”

“This is a grassroots effort that’s by and large successful,” Snyder said. “We’re working that way so that eventually it gets up to the state house and the governor and they take action on it.”

Chairman Dennis Fisher commended the environmental advisory committee for its work on the ordinance and suggested that it continue its effort to educate the public “as we continue to move in a more sustainable direction here in Newtown Township.”

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