West Coast Plastic Bag Ban Flies East

Ban may land on New York City's doorstep

By Brian Thompson
|  Monday, Oct 25, 2010  |  Updated 11:02 PM EDT
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A ban on plastic bags, the same ones you take home from the drug store or grocery, could be a reality in another city in the Tri-State.Brian Thopmson has more from <a title=Jersey City." />

A ban on plastic bags, the same ones you take home from the drug store or grocery, could be a reality in another city in the Tri-State.Brian Thopmson has more from Jersey City.

Jersey City might join West Coast cities such as San Francisco and Portland in banning the ubiquitous plastic bag

If it does, it would be the first such ban in the state, and it would have the support of shoppers such as Audrey Rubino.

"I don't believe in these because it's bad for the environment, it really is," Rubino said of the plastic bag she took out of a Stop&Shop in Jersey City, admitting she forgot to bring her recyclable canvas bag from home.

Her neighbor, Jewel Malafarina, remembered to bring both of hers -- and she said she had one more  at home.

She described plastic bags as an "irritant" that just collect in the home.

"I end up throwing them in the garbage anyway," Malafarina said.

The ban is the brainchild of two political foes, City Councilman Steve Fulop and Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who share a common distaste for what the mayor describes as 'Urban Tumbleweeds' that result in 'uglying up' his city.

Mayor Healy said he has hated plastic bags for decades -- ever since one got caught under his car and cost him several hundred dollars in repairs because the engine's heat caused a burning smell.

Councilman Fulop, who plans on running for Healy's job in three years, called them a problem for several reasons.

"From an environmental aspect, from a litter aspect, from a 'clogging the sewer' aspect," Fulop cited as the ways he things a plastic bag ban can help his city across the Hudson from Manhattan, and sometimes called New York's 6th Borough.

But the plastic bag has its defenders.

"Sometimes I might forget taking that bag with me...not everybody can afford(recyclable canvas bags)," said Paris Darelli, who had her four-year-old son Julian in tow.

And as might be expected, the supermarket industry has "grave concerns" about the proposed ban.

Linda Doherty, President of the New Jersey Food Council, sent a letter this week to Councilman Fulop.

"We would respectfully request that the proposed ordinance ... be held until we have the opportunity to meet on this issue," her letter said.

She went on to cite multiple efforts my member supermarkets to recycle the bags they hand out.

And among the arguments she made about the usefulness of plastic over paper, she noted "Especially in urban areas, residents rely on plastic bags as the easiest way to transport items like groceries due to the fact that many walk or take public transportation to and from food stores."

But Fulop said he was not impressed with Doherty's arguments, and hopes the city council will move forward on the legislation he and the Mayor have agreed to jointly push.

If Jersey City's Council does so, chain supermarkets would have six months to switch to paper or biodegradable plastic(i.e., made out of corn starch or similar product), while drug stores with 5 or more outlets in the city would have to do the same six months later.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY and us @NBCNewYork,and on Facebook/NBCNewYork, and sign up for breaking news SMS alerts on your phone by texting “NYBREAKING” to 639710.

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