Doylestown Residents Push for Restrictions on Use of Plastics

Sarah Siock, Centurion Staff

Videos of sea turtles with plastic straws lodged in their nostrils, images of dead marine animals’ stomachs filled with plastic bags, and the million tons of plastic that enter oceans each year have prompted several states to pass restrictions on single-use plastics.
The Environment and Recreation Committee of the Doylestown Borough Council wants to follow this trend and has attempted to ban single-use plastics for borough residents.
“It is important to reduce the use of singe use plastics at local, state, national, and international levels because they are designed to be used once, yet they last forever, polluting the environment and harming animals, and possible humans,” said Wendy Margolis, head of the Borough’s Environment and Recreation Committee.
The research on the impact of single use, non-recyclable plastics began back in 2016 by the Environment and Recreation Committee and Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) of Doylestown. Earlier this year, the Council advanced their research and gathered public feedback on the possibility of adopting an ordinance to ban the distribution of certain single-use plastics in Doylestown Borough.
The results of the survey were overwhelmingly positive. Of the 2,232 Doylestown residents and business owners who took the survey, 70 percent said they would support a ban of the distribution of single use plastic bags by Doylestown Borough businesses.
“We decided to research the issue due to a number of factors,” said Margolis. “Our constituents were asking for it and other nearby municipalities, including Lambertville and Narberth, were banning plastics. We found there are so many simple alternatives to single use plastics. For bags people can use reusable ones, for straws use cardboard ones or don’t use one at all.”
The EAC’s possible ordinance includes banning single use plastic straws with certain exemptions and requires that business owners charge 10 cents per single use plastic bag, with certain exemptions.
Despite the positive feedback from the community the Council is prohibited by state statute from passing plastics ordinances until June 2020.
“A state legislator succeeded in attaching a rider on the budget bill that created a moratorium. This state legislator represents Centre County, where there is the only plastic bag factory in the state,” explained Margolis.
Wendy Nieman, employee of Doylestown boutique, Lilies of the Field located on Main Street, was surprised to hear that the Environmental Committee could not move forward with the ban.
“I feel it would be a great move forward. The public is already educated about the issue. I just cannot understand why they would not accept such ordinances,” said Nieman.
Nieman added that Lilies of the Field currently uses paper bags at check out and eco-friendly clothing hangers.
“I know our store would not be opposed to the ban of plastics,” said Nieman.
Lilies of the Field is one of many Borough boutiques who currently use paper bags.
“We are very conscientious about the amount of plastic that we use. We have paper bags at check out and I don’t even offer them if someone is buying only one small item. It personally drives me crazy to see someone with a million plastic bags at the grocery store. Either you think about the effects of it or you don’t,” said Kristin Aldan, owner of Doylestown clothing shop, Something Else, located on State Street.
California and New York are among the states that have passed statewide bans on single use plastics. The number of plastic restrictions throughout the country continues to grow and often begins at a local level.
According to an article published by the Wall Street Journal in August, at least 414 local ordinances related to plastic bags have been passed in 28 states. However, The Doylestown Borough Council is still struggling with how to move forward with their ordinance.
“The biggest setback has been the action by the Commonwealth. At this point, we’re still discussing the proper direction to take in light of the moratorium,” said John Davis, borough manager.
Not every Doylestown resident is excited at the thought of a plastic-free town. Some worry it will make shopping difficult.
Brian Adkisons, a borough resident, has to travel to California for work and has not had a pleasant experience with the state’s plastic ban.
“I hate it. You are screwed if you forget to bring a reusable bag to grocery stores. It makes carrying items to your car extremely hard,” said Adkison.
Adkison added that he hoped that the proposed ordinance does not become a reality for Doylestown Borough residents.
“Paper bags is the way to go. However, I am against the ban of plastic straws. Paper straws are difficult to drink out of,” said Karen Mcmullin, employee of Main Street boutique, Serendipity.
Serendipity currently uses plastic and paper bags at check out. Mcmullin said most shoppers do not want a bag and a full switch to paper would not be a “big deal.”
While the Borough’s ordinance will not take effect immediately, the issue of single-use plastics continues to be a topic of discussion for local politicians. On Sept. 25, State Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-143, held a House Democratic Policy
Committee public hearing. Ullman requested the hearing to discuss how Pennsylvania is addressing single-use plastics.
“I want recycling to become part of everyday life,” said Ullman, in a statement to the Bucks County Courier Times.
Single use plastics are a largescale problem, but the Doylestown Borough Council was not intimidated and plans to continue to address worldwide issues.
“Increasingly, the Council has been taking on national and even global issues like this at the local level. I believe the intent is to set an example and spur the state and federal governments to ultimately take action,” said Davis, borough manager.