Summit group presses for plastic bag restrictions

Melissa Spurr of Green Summit, standing at lectern, and Donna Patel, Environmental Commission chair, addresses the Summit council at its May 7 meeting.

SUMMIT, NJ — Some residents of the Hilltop City are pressing local officials to enact more restrictions on plastic bag use, citing a survey conducted by Green Summit, a local activist environmental group.
The survey — which took place between March and September of last year — asked Summit residents two questions: what are their top municipal concern and what is their top in-home environmental concern.

“Plastic bag restriction was overwhelmingly the first option for participants,” Environmental Commission Chairwoman Donna Patel said at the May 7 Common Council meeting, where the results were presented.
Forty percent of the more than 500 participants selected plastic bag restriction as their top choice, and tree canopy restoration came in second, with more than 20 percent selecting it.

Patel told the council that Green Summit had distributed more than 1,000 reusable bags on Martin Luther King Day, getting them “into the hands of the elderly and lower-income families in the city by providing food pantries and other service entities with reusable bags.”

Summit Farmers Market vendors no longer will be allowed to offer customers plastic bags at this year’s market. However, plastic bags for produce and paper bags are permitted. The market is giving out free reusable bags while supplies last, according to the city’s website.

Residents main in-home concern was for decreasing the use of pesticides on lawns, with more than 25 percent voting that as their top priority.
“This has been kind of a growing movement, with information even in the New York Times recently on reducing the use of toxic and synthetic pesticides and preventing them from entering the waterways,” Green Summit member Melissa Spurr said.
The next two priorities for residents were the use of home solar panels, at 21 percent; and home energy savings, at almost 20 percent. The two go hand-in-hand, according to Patel.

The Environmental Commission is looking into the state’s new community solar program, which allows individuals whose homes aren’t suitable for solar to subscribe to solar development, Patel added.
Council President David Naidu observed that the “Skip the Straw” campaign, which was implemented in November, is making an impact on the city. He added that Summit should be more proactive than the state in banning single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam.

“I hope all businesses realize that it’s beneficial to them financially when they don’t have to buy extra straws because people don’t need them and we’re helping out the environment at the same time,” he said.
“The planet needs saving and it’s up to us to do something about it,” Naidu added.

At the same meeting, the city’s Broad Street West redevelopment plan was officially adopted in a unanimous vote. The plan calls for residential, retail and commercial development that includes City Hall, the library, firehouse and post office, a 125-unit senior housing complex managed by the Summit Housing Authority and the local YMCA.

The area contains 16 lots, a little more than 10 acres of privately-owned land and 6 acres of city property between Maple Street and Springfield Avenue. The site will be split into four subdistricts, each with a set of guidelines for public open space, residential use and parking requirements.