Plastic Bags, Straws, Styrofoam. Why We Need To Ditch Them All | Editorial

It's hard not to get discouraged reading about the White House's assault on breathable air, clean drinking water and toxin-free foods.

The administration seems determined to roll back the progress of the last two or three decades, simultaneously deregulating entire industries while giving businesses a green light to pollute and despoil.

So it comes as welcome news that lawmakers in the Garden State have quietly gone about doing their part to mitigate some of the damage.

Two examples stand out. One is a unanimous vote earlier this month by Monmouth Beach officials to ban single-use plastic bags, straws and food containers, as well as Styrofoam boxes for take-out food.

The second is bill on the state level that would prohibit the sale of food and drinks in Styrofoam containers in New Jersey's public schools and public institutions of higher ed.

The common goal here: Ridding our shores and our schools of non-biodegradable products that cannot be recycled or reused.

The Monmouth Beach ordinance, which applies to local restaurants, grocers and other vendors, carries fines of up to $2,400, but Mayor Sue Howard noted that offenders would receive warnings for initial violations.

The villain is the plastic that has been washing up on Jersey beaches at alarming - and increasing - rates, environmentalists say. The debris can choke or otherwise harm sea creatures, which eat or become entangled in the discarded waste.

Several other shore communities have adopted or are considering imposing curbs on the use of disposable plastic items, which find their way into the Atlantic Ocean via storm drains, dumping or other routes.

Meanwhile, state Sens. Christopher Bateman (R-16th District) and Troy Singleton (D-7th District) are promoting a measure that would ban the use of polystyrene food containers - you know it better as Styrofoam - which have been associated with high levels of waste pollution.

The bipartisan bill was released from the Senate Environment and Energy Committee by a 5-0 vote, and now heads to the full Senate.

Singleton noted that the impetus for the measure came from students in Palmyra's Charles Street School. He lauded it as a "simple, common-sense step towards creating a more sustainable environment in New Jersey."

Additionally, the senator said, watching their idea progress from concept to law gives the youngsters a real-life civic lesson.

These bans may represent small steps in the fight against pollution, but they're cause for hope - hope that our state's policy-makers have not been swept up in the deregulatory tsunami washing over Washington.

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