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Newtown Township’s New Single-Use Plastics Ban Will Encourage Environmental Stewardship

The 120-day phase-in period allows merchants time to eliminate the use of plastics flagged in the ban and provides consumers time to adjust to a growing ecological trend designed to combat pollution.
newtown single use plastics
Image courtesy of PennEnvironment.

Newtown Township joined more than two dozen other Pennsylvania cities and municipalities on Wednesday when, in a 4-1 vote, the Supervisors passed an ordinance to ban the distribution of certain single-use plastics.

Specifically, the township seeks to eliminate single-use plastic bags along with takeout food containers, disposable cutlery, and drinking straws customarily provided by local restaurants and retailers.  

PennEnvironment estimates that Pennsylvanians use 4.75 billion single-use plastic bags annually. The majority of these bags end up in landfills and are estimated to remain intact and not degrade for at least 100 years.

Initiated by Supervisor Elen Snyder, the plastics ban has been a years-long work in progress. Snyder was joined by fellow Democrats Dennis Fisher, John Mack and Phil Calabro in voting in favor of the motion. Republican Supervisor Kyle Davis voted against it.

“Plastics are a problem all over the world … it starts in our communities and extends everywhere,” Snyder told The Beacon in an April 2022 article, following the passage of a resolution by the township to ban single-use plastics. Suggestive in nature, municipal resolutions have no legal binding, but frequently indicate the direction local officials intend to pursue.

“There’s no negative to having a resolution that people didn’t follow,” said Snyder. “It’s just not a law, it’s a suggestion.”

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Retailers who opted to abide by the 2022 resolution gained an early advantage to align with the new ordinance. Nevertheless, the township is offering all retailers a range of supportive measures designed to facilitate a smooth transition away from plastics, including a 120-day gradual rollout that begins on December 11.

The new law will go into effect on April 9.

“We’re giving them four months to be able to reduce their stock and find alternatives. Anything they need to do, we’re giving them the time to do it and, if they say they bought a year’s worth of something, they show us a receipt … then we’ll give them an [temporary] extension,” said Snyder.

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The township will be providing retailers with information that details specifics of the new law and answers to frequently asked questions. Merchants will also be provided with an informational poster ahead of the April 9 deadline to alert customers of the upcoming need to bring a reusable shopping bag as well as the ability to purchase a recyclable paper bag. An employee training flier will also be provided.

Determined not to trade one problem for another, the township’s ordinance also has guidelines for suitable paper and reusable containers. For instance, paper bags must be 100% recyclable and eco-friendly shopping bags must be designed to sustain repeated usage.

Snyder emphasized that the new ordinance is not a punishment and that the township will assist local businesses. “We will help you,” she said. “We don’t want you to get fined.”

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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