Princeton plastic bag ban proposal drawing praise, criticism

PRINCETON, N.J. (WPVI) -- It's estimated that Mercer County uses 183 million plastic bags each year. Activists in Princeton say that huge number is polluting the environment.

Environmental Activist Bainy Suri tells us, "Those very same qualities that made us fall in love with plastic are now coming back to haunt us. They're not biodegradable and they end up in the water streams."

Suri is one of the environmentalists pushing for a new ordinance in Princeton that would have businesses charge customers a minimum of $.10 for every single use plastic or paper bag that goes out of the store.

Stephanie Chorney from the Princeton Environmental Commission says, "The idea of charging for a bag is really primarily to get people to stop using bags, any single use bag, and bring reusable bags, because we want to try to decrease the amount of waste that goes to a landfill."

If this eventually goes through, Princeton would become the first town in New Jersey to do something like this. Proponents say it's worked elsewhere - why not here?

Resident Tony Barr says, "In Ireland when this happened, at first there was a big uproar but most people went to reusable bags after a few months."

Ashley Vietri of Lawrenceville says, "It might make me annoyed and I might be irritated by it but I'm sure it wouldn't really discourage me from picking up my order."

And Fred Meads of Lawrenceville tells us, "I think it's a great idea... Because it would force me to not use the plastic bags because I don't want to pay the fee."

The bag fee would be collected and kept by merchants who would also keep records. The town is now looking into whether that's legal.

Florence Broadway of Lawrence Township says, "You have to think about people's income also. There are poor people shopping and $.10 means a lot."

While many people still choose plastic, McCaffreys supermarket in town offers discounts to customers who bring in their own reusable bags and they sell their own version of them at the store.

The bag fee is still just a proposal, but advocates hope it will be approved by Council sometime this year.
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