Montclair shoppers begin to adjust to new bag guidelines
By ERIN ROLL
Sara Friend was out shopping at the Claremont Avenue CVS last Friday when she realized she had left her reusable bags in the car by mistake and had to pay for the store-issued bags to carry out her purchases. In spite of having to pay this time, she is in favor of the reusable bag rules implemented recently in Montclair and the 10-cent fee.
“It is more motivation for you to bring your own bags and not leave them in the car,” Friend said.
It has been a month since Montclair’s ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect.
Montclair passed the ordinance on Nov. 19, requiring large chain stores to stop offering single-use plastic bags and charge a 10-cent fee for paper bags.
The bag ban initially ran into some resistance from small businesses in Montclair, due to concerns that the 2,500 square foot rule would end up including small businesses and the single-use bag ban might be cost-prohibitive.
The ban ordinance was later revised to be required only for large chain stores of 20,000 square feet or more. In Montclair, this ban applies to the three chain grocery stores: ACME, Kings and Whole Foods, and the three CVS locations on Bloomfield Avenue, Claremont Avenue and Valley Road.
Stores were responsible for alerting their customers to the ban, said Township Communications Director Katya Wowk.
Christine R. Samuels said the new rules and the 10-cent fee should have been better advertised to customers. “That’s going to add up,” she said of the fee. She said that like many other people, she was accustomed to taking single-use bags home and using them as small garbage bags.
Samuels’s purchases took up about eight CVS bags. “So that’s almost a dollar,” she said.
There wasn’t a time limit for stores to get into compliance with the ban, Wowk said, but the township’s code enforcement staff visited each store to make sure they were in compliance. Wowk said the township had not received any direct feedback from stores or residents about the ban, but she said that social media postings about the ban were positive.
At the CVS locations on Claremont Street and Valley Road, notices by the cash registers advise customers that there is now a 10-cent fee for each store-issued plastic bag.
“I just found out about it. I was here last week and no one told me it was 10 cents,” said Samuels. She said she didn’t notice any of the signs about the 10-cent fee on her previous visit. In addition, she said the cashier had started putting her purchases into store bags before telling her about the fee. She said that she might start bringing her own rolling cart from home.
At Whole Foods, the store gives customers a 10-cent discount for each reusable bag they use at checkout. The discount was in place for several years before the single-use bag ban was introduced.
The Kings location on Valley Road posted a sign on the store’s front doors reminding customers to bring their own reusable bags.
Shoppers in Montclair mostly approve of the idea, calling it a good measure to help cut down on plastic pollution.
Kathleen Mersinger, who bought two bottles of water, said the ban on single-use bags was a good idea.
“There’s too much plastic, you can see it,” she said, gesturing around at litter in the parking lot.
At the ACME on Valley Road, a Glen Ridge resident who identified herself only as Doris said she herself didn’t have a problem with the single-use bag ban. She is already accustomed to bringing her own bags.
In December, a proposed state-wide ban on single-use bags took another step forward after it passed through the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. However, the bill did not come up for a scheduled vote in the Assembly on Monday, Jan. 13, which means that the bill failed to meet the legislative deadline.
But Montclair Environment Commission co-chair Lyle Landon had told the council in July that waiting for a state ban would be a detriment to local retailers. “If you put the ban in place now, retailers can collect the money [from the 10-25 cent fee for paper]. If the state [enacts a ban], it will collect the fees. We want to help our retailers and pass a municipal ban so their expenses [for paper] will go away,” Landon said.