The U.S Department of State published a Fact Sheet in February 2022 of programs to enroll stakeholders in Plastic Pollution Reduction. National initiatives like Break Free From Plastic Pollution consist of more than 12,000 organizations and individuals globally who have come together to demand reductions of single-use plastics and advocate for solutions to our growing plastic crisis. Over the past three years, they have worked tirelessly to pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The goal of this legislation is to establish requirements and incentives to reduce the production of a variety of products and materials, including plastics, and increase efforts to collect, recycle, or compost products and materials. It also places limits on the export of plastic waste to other countries. Upstream Solutions compiled a Policy Tracker that provides a comprehensive overview of all national and international policies targeting source reduction and legislative action, specifically focusing on single-use products and packages.
Evaluating all of this, we have created a massive trash heap for ourselves. We need to publicly garner a greater understanding of the unseen impacts. Our garbage has a life after it’s pulled from our curb and that impact might just be causing negative health outcomes in a few counties over. Which is what we are currently experiencing in Chester, Delaware County, and Camden County.
Penn Environment, an environmental advocacy organization, lists more than a dozen ordinances in the state targeting plastic reduction. Right here in Bucks County, Doylestown has an active Plastic Ordinance that will go into effect on June 23, 2023, an action that was informed by data illustrating 100 percent of 53 Pennsylvania waterways are polluted with microplastics and acknowledging the potential public health impact.
In June 2022, the Solebury Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass an ordinance banning single-use carry-out plastic bags, polystyrene food containers, and single-use plastic straws in the township’s commercial establishments.
Now, Newtown Township is the latest municipality looking to help wean Bucks County off of its plastic dependence. The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) is hosting a listening session Monday at 7 p.m. in the Newtown Township Municipal Building at 100 Municipal Drive (off of Durham Road) to discuss a potential ban on certain single-use plastics in the township, such as thin plastic grocery bags, utensils, disposable plastic straws, and polystyrene (styrofoam). Penn Environment’s Faran Savitz will be present at the meeting to provide background information and assist the EAC in answering any questions or concerns that businesses or residents may have regarding these proposed actions. The EAC intends to make available a sample ordinance either during or prior to the meeting. The Newtown EAC hopes to submit a proposal to the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors that both businesses and residents will support.
Newtown Township Supervisor Elen Snyder has been an early advocate for the Township to reduce its consumption of single-use plastics. In August of 2021, prior to her election as Supervisor, Snyder was a member of the EAC and urged the Supervisors to enact rules to encourage, or require, businesses to reduce their usage of single-use plastics. In April 2022, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors acted on her recommendation by unanimously passing a resolution to encourage the voluntary reduction of single-use plastics in the Township. At the February 22, 2023, Board of Supervisors meeting, EAC Co-chair Elaine McCarron advised the Supervisors that the council is now laying the groundwork for the supervisors to consider a ban. Snyder and McCarron have talked one-on-one with most of the businesses in the Township. Many of them asked for education and that is where the township and the EAC are stepping in.
What is needed now is for residents who support these measures to attend this meeting and show their approval. It is also an invitation to other neighboring townships and their respective EACs who are interested in passing similar ordinances to attend in order to learn more about due process and how to implement long-lasting and sustainable changes in their localities. Townships that have already passed plastic reduction ordinances are also welcome to share their successes and challenges as well.
I personally want to commend Newtown Township and the leadership of their EAC. These measures are paramount considering the implications on our local environment and beyond. Local initiatives such as these bring us closer to seeing positive climate and health outcomes for future generations. Regardless of the convenience that these single-use plastics provide, the environmental threats outweigh the benefits and cost to our municipalities, businesses, and communities at large. Please consider attending this event to show your support. It is a wonderful way to get young people enrolled in local civic action. They are going to have to deal with the mess that past generations have left behind. Afterall. every piece of plastic that has ever been made, is still here polluting the planet in one form or another so there is no better time than now.