Some Stafford Retailers Prepared to Make the Move Away From Plastic Bags

By DAVID BIGGY | May 23, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Later this year, ShopRite and other retailers in Stafford Township may not be permitted to offer single-use carryout plastic bags, and local businesses soon might have to make adjustments.

George Snyder finally opened his eyes and has become a believer.

“I had an epiphany,” said the co-owner of Moester’s Bakery in Manahawkin. “They’re everywhere. When you look around, really take a look, you can’t miss it. Before, I never gave it a second thought. Now, I’m disgusted by it. So, yeah ... something has to happen.”

What Snyder is referring to are the numbers of plastic bags adorning trees, stuck in shrubbery or stuck amid the muck at the ends of some local lagoons – and he’s ready to do his part in reducing those numbers.

“When I talked to Mayor Spodofora about the plans for a plastic-bag ban, I said to him, ‘I don’t see the problem,’ and he told me to open my eyes next time I was driving on Route 72,” Snyder said. “Later that day, I was at the jughandle near ShopRite and looked in the wooded area there. I was amazed at what I saw, but it was disgusting. The next time I saw the mayor, I apologized to him for not being aware of the problem.”

Compared to other retailers in Stafford Township, Moester’s doesn’t make a big contribution to the plastic bag population. Snyder said the bakery goes through an estimated 150 plastic bags per weekend.

Nonetheless, Snyder now understands that his business, even in some small way, might be contributing to what is fast becoming an issue throughout the nation. Plastic bags aren’t environmentally friendly and the thought that even one of the bags coming from his bakery may at some point end up in Barnegat Bay is appalling to him.

“I’ve definitely changed my tune,” he said. “And we’ll make adjustments if the plastic bag ban goes into effect. In fact, I’m on my last case of plastic bags now, and it might be finished off in a few weeks. Once that case is used up, that’s it for us on plastic bags.”

Whether the plastic bag ban – introduced by the Stafford Township Council in February and the ordinance scheduled for a final reading sometime in July – will be in complete effect later this year remains to be seen. But with the ban likely to be approved by the council in July, businesses in Stafford will have 120 days from that point to complete their moves away from single-use plastic bags.

That means Wawa and Acme, which already have made the switch in Long Beach Township, ShopRite, Kohl’s, Walmart, The Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, Target, PetSmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and all others, including small businesses like Moester’s, are going to have to change gears and come up with alternative ways for consumers to carry out the products they purchase in those locations.

Of course, BJ’S Wholesale Club, Costco and Aldi won’t have to change a thing. The only plastic bags either of them offer are those for produce, meat and flowers, which still will be allowed, according to the ordinance.

So far, Spodofora has reported, as recently as two weeks ago, all retailers that use plastic bags in town have been notified and most seem to be taking a possible ban in stride.

“I’ve talked to a lot of business owners and, so far, I’ve received no complaints,” Spodofora said in phone conversation May 8. “Most people I’ve talked to have given positive feedback about it. A few businesses in town, ones with corporate offices somewhere else in the country, haven’t responded to our letters and emails, but it’s probably not that big of a deal for them. Some of those businesses are already doing this in California and other states.”

In March, a few weeks after the ordinance was introduced, Louis Bruno at Bruno’s Meat Market on Route 9 said he wasn’t quite sure how Bruno’s would deal with the plastic bag ban, but he didn’t seem too concerned about it.

“I’ve heard about it,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about it, yet. But I know it’s the right thing to do. Plastic bags are a problem. We’ll make whatever adjustments we have to make when the time comes. Maybe we’ll get those canvas bags with our logo on it, or something like that.”

Corporate officials from ShopRite, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, PetSmart, Best Buy, Lowes, Kohl’s and Wawa did not respond to The SandPaper’s requests for comment on what a plastic ban might mean for their stores in town or how they plan to adapt. Several local store managers said they were not authorized to comment, either.

However, most of the big retailers in town are part of corporations with stores already utilizing other means in California, where a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bans has been in place for several years. So, it’s likely not going to be a major issue to make the switch in Stafford.

In fact, Target encourages customers and communities to reduce plastic bag use, according to a statement from Jacque DeBuse, a corporate communications representative.

“Target complies with all local and state ordinances,” DeBuse said. “Every store offers an alternative to plastic bags, including paper bags or reusable plastic bags for purchase.”

Whether it comes easily or becomes a burden for most business in Stafford, Snyder believes it’s time to go back to a time when plastic bags didn’t exist.

“I remember when I was young and plastic bags weren’t around. Businesses functioned just fine without them,” he said. “I have a lot of customers already refusing plastic bags, so it’s not a big deal. Yes, it’s going to cost us more to get the right-sized paper bags or use more boxes, but when making this switch away from plastic is worth the cost.

“You’re always going to have somebody crying about it, for whatever reason. But we’re just going to have to get used to it. People have to start getting away from their dependency on plastics, because it’s out of control. And now I know that.”

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