Newtown Township Takes First Step to Break Free from Plastics

Activist turned township supervisor Elen Snyder led the campaign to get this resolution passed.
newtown single use plastics
Image courtesy of PennEnvironment.

Not using plastic products can go a long way in helping combat the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.

So, when Newtown Township Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution this week to encourage the reduction of single-use plastics, such as bags, straws, and polystyrene food containers, this is something the community needs to rally around and support moving forward.

“Plastics are a problem all over the world … it starts in our communities and extends everywhere,” said Supervisor Elen Snyder, a Democrat, who was just elected in November.

She’s right. And it’s why we need to “think globally, and act locally,” because locally, we can make tangible changes that can impact not only our communities but far beyond, as well.  

“We applaud local township officials for taking this stand and encouraging Newtown residents to reduce single-use plastics,” said Miah Hornyak, Lower Bucks Field Coordinator for Conservation Voters of PA. “Unfortunately plastics are another arena for the fossil fuel industry to continue polluting our environment.”

It is a problem locally. 

PennEnvironment released a survey of Pennsylvania waterways last year and found microplastics in Bucks County’s Delaware River Canal, Neshaminy Creek, and Tohickon Creek. In fact, of the 53 waterways tested across Pennsylvania, 100 percent contained microplastics. 

“If we don’t want plastic in our bodies or in the bodies of fish, whales or birds, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue entering into the environment every day, every year,” said Dr. David Velinsky, Vice President of Academy Science at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, when the report was released.  

Americans use billions of single use plastic items each year, exacerbating our environmental and public health crises. This helps explain why it is already in our blood and has been found in people’s lungs. And it’s in our oceans. In fact, 89 percent of the estimated 13 million tons of plastics found in our oceans each year are single-use plastics. 

“We can’t go on like this,” said Snyder. “Newtown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the nation, the world – we can’t go on like this.”

Thankfully, Snyder is an environmentalist who walks her talk. This resolution was a campaign promise she made, and kept. She actually started working on this three years ago as a member of Newtown Township’s Environmental Advisory Council, but COVID-19 temporarily derailed her efforts. She told me it just didn’t make sense to push this message at a time when the service industry was hurting so badly, due to the pandemic and lockdowns. 

Now that this resolution has passed the next step is public education and outreach. This will hopefully help build support to pass an ordinance next year, and eventually legislate an elimination of single-use plastics in the township. 

Folks should reach out to thank Snyder, as well as the other forward thinking Newtown Township Supervisors: John Mack, Phil Calabro, Dennis Fisher, and Kyle Davis. 

Conservation Voters of PA’s Hornyak noted that while our local State Representative Perry Warren and Senator Steve Santarsiero are environmental champions, the General Assembly has yet to pass meaningful reforms at the state level. This underscores why Newtown Township’s action is so important. 

“In lieu of state action, local education and action are absolutely critical,” said Hornyak. 

And that critical local action includes you. While you are thanking the supervisors, why not ask how you can get involved.

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Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bucks County Beacon. Read his columns on Sundays and follow him on Twitter.

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