Long Beach Township Proposes Ban on Plastic Bags for Municipality’s Businesses

Open Space Conservation Trust Fund Up for a Vote This Fall
Jul 12, 2017
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Long Beach Township is all in on environmental progress and sustainability. The municipality recently banned the release of helium balloons in its divided 12 miles, adding to its history of green initiatives: energy efficiency upgrades at town hall, water refilling stations to encourage the use of reusable bottles, the shuttle bus program to reduce cars on the road, a seasonal smoking ban on the beaches and the new oyster recycling program, among others.

Now, the township has introduced an ordinance to prohibit businesses from distributing single-use plastic carryout bags, promoting reusable bags in their stead. “The Board of Commissioners of the Township of Long Beach believes it has a duty to investigate and implement any and all necessary and proper steps the Township can take to protect the environment and the public health, welfare and safety,” explains Ordinance 17-31C, second reading of which will take place on Oct. 2.

In the meantime, Mayor Joseph Mancini explained, the township officials want to meet with business owners in the municipality and hear their thoughts on the proposal.

“Single-use plastic bags are just out of control,” Mancini noted. “They’re on the water, they’re blowing by on the beach; they’re everywhere.

“I think it’s time” to take action to reduce the number of plastic bags in the waste stream and the environment.

As Conserve Wildlife Foundation of N.J. Communication Coordinator Corrine Henn noted in a blog post from earlier this summer, “The plastic pollution that accumulates in our waterways and elsewhere around New Jersey poses a serious threat to native species. Single-use plastic products like plastic bags, bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, straws and even balloons are not only unsustainable, but particularly dangerous for the animals that may become entangled in them or accidentally ingest them.”

The township ordinance, meanwhile, notes that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as many as one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and it’s estimated that less than 5 percent of that plastic is recycled.

“It is beyond dispute that the use of single-use plastic carryout bags has a severe and negative environmental impact on the local and global environment as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions emitted to produce such bags, the land-based and ocean-based pollution created, the hazards posed to wildlife, the blocking of storm drains by plastic, the hazards posed to sources of water for humans, and the negative impact on the ecosystem and food chain as a whole,” the ordinance reads.

Mancini envisions a six-month phase-in of the bag ban if the board of commissioners adopts the measure this fall. Patrons would then be tasked with bringing their own reusable bags to the stores – as more and more individuals already do now, at grocery stores in particular – or they would have to pay a fee for recycled paper bags.

“We are very excited to hear that LBT is looking into limiting the number of plastic bags entering the waste stream by working with local businesses and potentially passing some rules as well,” said Alliance for a Living Ocean Executive Director Kyle Gronostajski. “We welcome all towns to do the same and also are happy to talk with any businesses looking to eliminate single-use plastics from their regular usage. Straws, bags, cups, and takeout containers all contribute to plastic debris we regularly find during our beach cleanups.”

The township is also moving forward with an open space conservation referendum question for Nov. 7.

Ordinance 17-30 authorizes a referendum ballot question for the establishment of this open space trust fund. “The Board of Commissioners of the Township of Long Beach has revitalized and preserved, and continues to revitalize and preserve, several areas of open space areas in the Township for recreation and conservation purposes,” the ordinance states, “and the Board of Commissioners has concluded that the continued acquisition and preservation of lands for recreation and parks, water resource and floodplain protection, environmental protection of wetlands, the watershed, and wildlife habitat, and historic preservation purposes is of vital public importance and shall further contribute to the public health, welfare, and safety.”

The referendum will ask taxpayers to vote on an additional 1 cent per $100 of assessed value on the annual local property tax levy. The amount raised, then, would be matched by the county, and all the funds would be utilized for the conservation of open space in the township.

Also this November, the township will again put out to voters a referendum question regarding the township’s ability to charge a nominal fee for the shuttle bus service, which is currently free. Riders are asked to donate, but, according to the municipality, donations are meager.

Ridership, meanwhile, continues to increase: More than 25,000 individuals have hopped on so far this summer. Grant funding and $10,000 a year from each of the other Island towns helps keep the shuttles on the road, but the service is so popular that the township would like to purchase additional, and bigger, buses, which cost around $65,000 each.

The service is a victim of its own success. “Our biggest problem is when the buses drive by people because they’re full,” as those waiting often assume the bus drivers didn’t see them, Commissioner Joseph Lattanzi said this spring. More and bigger buses are, therefore, a necessity for the future of the program.

A referendum question regarding a fee for the shuttles failed in 2016, but the township aims to spend more time this year educating taxpayers about the service and the need for a small fee for riders – which, they pointed out, takes the cost out of the tax base.

Last year’s referendum question asked, “Shall the Township of Long Beach be permitted to engage in the business of transportation, and, therefore, be authorized to charge fares to persons to use the existing municipal transportation system, as described in an ordinance of the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Long Beach entitled ‘An ordinance amending an ordinance entitled, “Code of the Township of Long Beach, County of Ocean, State of New Jersey, 1997” as the same in Chapter 195 pertains to the municipal transportation system,’ passed on April 4, 2016?”

The township imagines this fall’s question will read similarly.

“In the event that the referendum is passed by a majority of the citizens,” the ordinance explains, the township “shall be authorized to charge the public money for the use of the transportation system in a manner determined by the resolution of the Board of Commissioners, including, but not limited to, daily rates, monthly passes, and/or seasonal passes, and otherwise ‘engage in the business of transportation’ in substantially the same form as the transportation system.

“All funds raised by engaging in the business of transportation shall be applied to purchases and costs relating to and arising out of the maintenance and operation of the transportation system only.”

The next meeting of the Long Beach Township Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Aug. 7 at 6 p.m.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

 

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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