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GUEST OPINION: Food Council Fearmongers to Try to Block Plastic Bag Bans  

New Jersey Sierra Club 

The Food Council have asked municipalities in New Jersey asking to put a freeze on plastic bag bans. In their letter, President Linda Doherty writes, “we are respectfully requesting municipalities with ordinances restricting the use of single-use plastic Guest opinion 4and/or paper bags to suspend or freeze these ordinances for the duration of this health emergency and for 30 days thereafter to enable our retailers to respond to the increased food supply demands and restock compliant bags appropriately.  

“This is a time of a serious health emergency and we are all very concerned about coronavirus and the pandemic that is affecting all of us. We also believe it should not be used as excuse to roll back critical protections to towns when it comes to banning plastic bags. The Food Council is trying to hide behind this health emergency as a way to keep plastic bags back keep on the market and undermine the towns progress on banning them. They are using a health emergency to destroy the environment.,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Food Council should be ashamed since there has been no evidence regarding spreading using reusable bags. They should not be fearmongering for political purposes to rollback plastic ban regulations.”

The Food Council letter states, “It is currently unknown exactly how long COVID-19 can live on surfaces, such as reusable bags. It has been reported that this coronavirus can survive on surfaces for 24-48 hours, and similar viruses (SARS and MERS) are known to survive for up to nine days. At this time, reusable bags could easily spread disease and their use should be temporarily discouraged until this crisis passes. However, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests the virus can live up to four hours on copper, up to a day on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

 “We believe the Food Council is using the coronavirus as an excuse to get rid of reusable bag. There is no evidence to that effect. People are practicing social distancing and workers are wearing gloves at the supermarket. The virus could just be easily spread on plastic bags. According to new research, the virus can live for up to 3 days on plastic. There are so many other surfaces the virus can be transmitted, whether it’s on a steel canned soup that a customer put in their cart, or on the doorknob of the front door of the supermarket, or on the change they received back from paying at the cash register,” said Tittel. “In order to prevent any type of spreading, workers need to be wearing gloves, canned items need to be disinfected, workers and customers with symptoms should not be working or shopping.”

So far, eight states have banned single-use plastic bags, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. In New Jersey, towns like Paramus, Bayonne, Lambertville, Avalon, Belmar, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Teaneck are all passing plastic bag ban ordinances.

“The Food Council is trying to undo the progress the state has been making when it comes to banning plastic. They have been holding up a statewide ban on single use plastics. People are fed up with plastic pollution filling up their storm drains and threatening their drinking water. A healthy environment goes hand in hand with a healthy population. Close to 38 towns in New Jersey already have plastic bans in effect, 18 have passed ordinances that are not yet in effect, and dozens more are in the process. Governor Murphy needs to block the Food Council’s effort of undermining plastic bans. It is too important for the safety of our health and our communities,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.