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STONE HARBOR – The Stone Harbor Borough Council is taking action to curb use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. The familiar plastic bags are a ubiquitous consumer convenience, but they often end up jamming machines at recycling plants and endangering sensitive marine environments. The bags are harmful to animals, clog drainage systems, and litter beaches.

Estimates range to 500 billion plastic bags used each year around the globe. Small communities like Stone Harbor can have little impact on such wide-spread use, yet borough council wants to try, citing a need to protect its own vulnerable marine and wetlands ecosystems.

While other communities see environmental advocates attempting to rouse their governing bodies from slumber on this issue, leadership in Stone Harbor appears to be coming from the governing body itself. Citing action taken recently to ban the use of Chinese lanterns, council discussed the far more prevalent dangers from plastic bags.

Statistics show that the average time that a plastic bag is in use is 12 minutes, yet it may remain a part of the environment for decades or longer, clogging drains, damaging infrastructure, and harming animals in the process.

Council member Raymond Parzych called it “ridiculous to allow this to continue.” Council member Joselyn Rich said it was time for Stone Harbor to “set an example for others.”

Council President Karen Lane used the May 15 work session to inform her colleagues about a Go Green Initiative that will see a $2,000 grant used in part to purchase recyclable bags to give merchants, asking the merchants to use them instead of plastic bags.

Council member Joan Kramar pointed out that recyclable bags are the only ones used at the borough’s Farmer’s Market, a popular weekly event during the season.

Lane also described a video that had been prepared as part of an educational campaign, pointing out the dangers of the bags.

Education is important, but council members are talking about going much further. They are willing to consider an actual ban on the bags within the borough.

As part of its grant application, Stone Harbor submitted a timeline that would have the governing body considering possible ordinance changes by Dec. 31. The grant “started the ball rolling,” said Lane, but the council has to be prepared to “be proactive,” added Parzych, who was discussing outlawing the use of the bags in the borough.

“I know we will not solve the problem, even in Stone Harbor,” Parzych said. The bags will come in as “people shop at the Acme” or return from Avalon, he added.

Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour pointed to areas where even chain supermarkets and convenience stores have agreed to move away from the ubiquitous bags.

Ending the environmental threat of non-biodegradable plastic bags will require a long struggle, but in Stone Harbor, the governing body seems poised to take on the task, doing what they can to protect their small corner of the world.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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