Princeton Council considering ban on plastic dog waste pick-up bags ⋆ Princeton, NJ local news %

Plastic bags of dog poop left on a sidewalk. Photo: Brian Yurasits via Unsplash

by Renard V. Fuchs

According to a press advisory issued on Thursday evening, the Princeton Council will hold a mid-April work session to consider a ban on the use of plastic dog waste pick-up bags and a program that would allow DNA testing of abandoned dog waste for enforcement purposes.

For the DNA program, dog owners would have to submit dog saliva samples when they renew their dog licenses. The ban on plastic waste bags is described as a “sustainability measure to complement the upcoming ban on single-use carryout plastic bags,” according to the press release. The DNA measure is billed as a measure to determine dog poop scofflaws. Both initiatives were recommended to the council by Sustainable Princeton, a non-governmental advocacy group, and are supported by the Princeton Health Commission (PHC), the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), and the Animal Control Advisory Commission.

Council Member Mia Sacks is listed as council liaison to Sustainable Princeton. Sacks explained by phone that the proposed plastic waste ban is a “logical follow-up to the ban on single-use plastic bags.” As soon as single-use plastic is not available, she said, “people will be picking up dog waste with Town Topics and New York Times bags as well as with cheaper pick-up bags and all these will all go into the massive stream of plastic pollution we are trying to cut back on with the single-use ban.” Sacks said that under the plan, dog owners would receive light-weight high-tech poop scoopers when they register their dogs but at a discount. Sustainable Princeton has offered the town a challenge grant using state money matched by a private donor that will subsidize the cost. Sacks said she did not know who the donor was. Asked where dog owners would put the waste if receptacles are not nearby, Sacks said she is working on that detail and has been in conversation with a group called AAPAWS (Association of Pet Animal Waste Specialists) for guidance.

Eve Niedergang, council liaison to the Princeton Environmental Commission, said she supports the measures because “the proliferation of plastic, whether or not it contains groceries or dog waste threatens our quality of life and our environment.” She views the plastic waste bag ban as a “net positive” for the town and the environment. The “dog waste scoops can be used over and over again,” she said, and “the company we are consulting with assures us that dog owners will enjoy them.” Asked where dog owners would deposit the waste if they were not near a trash receptacle, Niedergang said she assumed that question was being handled by Princeton Sewer Committee.

The town website does not list the membership of the Princeton Sewer Committee.

Letitia Fraga, Council President and liaison to the Princeton Board of Health (BOH) said “uncollected dog waste is a problem that has grown in Princeton over the pandemic” and “threatens pubic health.” “Pet waste contains bacteria and parasites and should not be left on the ground.” Fraga, a dog owner, said she loves dogs, but “too many people don’t pick up after their dogs if no one is looking.” She said responsible dog owners should welcome a DNA program which “has been tried in Italy and works well there.” “When law-abiding owners see abandoned dog waste they can collect a sample, turn it in, and if the dog’s DNA is in our database the owner will be notified and warned that there will be a fine if it happens again.” Fraga said she assumed the Public Works Department would work out the details of where owners would deposit waste from the new poop scoops.

Council Member Michelle Lambros, responding to a text, said: “I did not know about this until a few minutes ago. I do not know the private donor who is helping fund the challenge grant. I do believe that all of Princeton, including our merchants, will be pleased that the town is taking a leadership role in strategies to keep our sidewalks and parks free of pet waste.”

Leighton Newlin, who joined council this year, said “I am deferring to my new colleagues on this. I still have a lot to learn about our priorities.”

Council Member David Cohen said he was “out of the loop on dog poop and poop scoops” and intended to stay there as long as possible. Reached at PFARS, Mayor Freda stressed that Princeton operates under a Borough form of government and that Council members were spearheading the proposals. He said he was looking forward to hearing more at the work session and promised to make sure that the town website is updated to list the members of the Princeton Sewer Committee.

This is the annual April Fool’s spoof article, submitted by a reader. The spoof April Fool’s day story is back by popular demand after a two-year break due to the pandemic. Apologies to those readers who don’t find the posting of such articles funny or appropriate.

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