Business competitiveness or environmental protection, this is the conflict that the Haverford council of commissioners considered on Monday evening by passing a resolution aimed at limiting the use of single-use plastic bags, straws and d agitators in the township.
The proposed plastic ban ordinance makes plastic straws available only on request and single-use plastic drink stirrers and plastic bags are banned.
At the March 7 business meeting, Vice President Judy Trombetta said the proposal stemmed from a meeting with the Environmental Advisory Committee.
Officials hope the proposal will encourage the idea that people should use reusable bags instead of single-use bags that often end up getting tangled in trees and polluting area waterways. Paper bags would require a charge of 10 cents per bag.
“At the end of the day, the goal of this bill is to solve problems with plastic waste,” Trombetta said. “Plastics are just flooding our waterways and we need to do something about it.”
Trombetta noted that several states have passed similar ordinances, and local communities such as Narberth and West Chester have also taken steps to limit the use of single-use plastic bags.
Authorities did not want to ban plastic straws because some members of the disability community rely on them. Radnor is also considering a similar order, Trombetta said.
Trombetta said they don’t want to weigh too heavily on the business community, but believe it’s possible to see his success in other communities.
Commissioner Conor Quinn, a local restaurant owner, said the proposal looked like government overreach and asked: ‘Where do we stop once we start this?’
Commissioner Steve D’Emilio noted that the plastics have seeped into the earth and the animals we eat and can now be found in humans.
“If we don’t do something, we’re in trouble,” D’Emilio said.
Quinn asked about fliers thrown on lawns with free coupons as well as newspapers and dry cleaning bags that are exempt. He added that Narberth also has an exemption for state stores and the post office.
Commissioner Larry Holmes said exemptions from the order are justified because newspapers or laundry bags arrive at the door, while convenience store purchases are sometimes thrown out of car windows after the item is taken out of the bag.
“We’re doing something that’s good for the environment,” Commissioner Kevin McCloskey said. “It’s not perfect and there will be issues along the way, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s one worth taking”
At Monday night’s board meeting, a number of residents spoke about the proposed ordinance. Melissa Romano said she had been reusing plastic bags for years and after getting used to the habit it was easy. She also said that single-use plastics are not sustainable because fossil fuels will run out, maybe not until today, but eventually and asked “How many wars do we have to fight for oil and the gas”.
“Without policies in place, things won’t change,” Romano said.
A number of Roots and Shoots students from Coopertown and Chestnutwold Elementary Schools have spoken in support of the program. The students presented the commissioners with a petition with 188 signatures in support of the ordinance.
Two residents spoke out against the plan. A man asked what the data was in the township and how many commercial businesses would be affected. He said the order was just opinions with no data to support the plan. One speaker spoke out against the policy saying disabled groups will not have easy access to the straws as restaurant staff may not be able to access them.
Commissioner William Wechsler said a number of businesses have complained to him that the order would be an unfair burden on businesses in the Pilgrim Gardens area where a business across the street in the township of Upper Darby would not be burdened with the orders.
He said he thinks state or federal action should fix the problem.
The ordinance passed by a vote of 7 to 2, with Quinn and Wechsler voting against. A second reading will take place in April.
The program would come into effect from January 2023.