Bag Bans Work

Nov 29, 2017

To the Editor:

The Surfrider Foundation wholeheartedly supports the plastic bag legislation passed by Long Beach Township earlier in November. Our organization has been involved in passing dozens of similar laws banning bags in other states, and scores of laws imposing fees on single-use bags.

While we had nothing to do with the ordinance passed here, we love it just the same, and all those involved should be congratulated. Moreover, it was especially courageous of Mayor Mancini to take this path because his was the first town in New Jersey to pass an all-out ban on plastic bags. The towns of Longport and Teaneck passed fees on single-use disposable checkout plastic bags in 2015 and 2107 respectively, but this is New Jersey’s first ban.

Bag bans and fees work. They reduce litter and they save municipalities money in reduced tipping fees. They also save recyclers money because plastic bags jam up recycling machinery. The list of benefits to humans goes on, not to mention marine mammals and turtles as well. 

Last week’s letter writer from Surf City (“Bag Ban Reeks”) decried the ban but offered weak, nonsensical and long-ago-debunked myths about the problem and solution.

First, for anyone who says they have never seen a plastic bag flying around in 50 years, I just don’t know where to start with that. Clearly this person has never done a beach cleanup. I see them every day. Literally. 

A few people who believe whatever information confirms their existing biases have been led to believe that reusable bags lead to contaminated food, E. coli outbreaks and trips to the hospital. If you look into the lone plastic bag industry-funded study that found bacteria in such bags, you’d find that they poured meat juice into the reusable bags, let it sit and – GASP – they found bacteria in the bags. Note there is probably more bacteria in a bag of salad greens inside that reusable bag, according to consumer scientists. Meat juice aside, most of our food is already packaged in plastic and there is just no risk to putting food in reusable bags week after week, year after year. If you are concerned about your reusable bags getting dirty, treat them like your underwear and wash them. 

The writer’s suggestion that we simply make daily badge fees $25 to keep beaches clean is preposterous and simply unhinged from reality. I can already hear the cries of government run amok, and bloated bureaucracies, coming from the same company that the letter writer keeps. 

Interestingly, I agree with the writer that inspecting cars coming across the Causeway for plastic checkout bags from off-Island supermarkets is silly and would never happen. As with all government policies, the actions of a duly elected government body should never be imposed on people who didn’t elect them. That’s not how good ideas spread.

But wouldn’t it be nice if each of those cars went home with a few branded, reusable bags from Long Beach Island that remind them of their awesome time here? Those bags might get used back in New York, Philadelphia and their suburbs by newly enlightened consumers. Those LBI-branded bags would really get a workout if those municipalities in turn passed bag legislation of their own. Wouldn’t it be great if those Island visitors and supermarket patrons were prepared for that because of us here on Long Beach Island? That’s how we change the world, and it starts at home. 

John Weber, Mid-Atlantic regional manager

Surfrider Foundation




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