Plastic Bag Ban Not on Agenda in Surf City

Feb 21, 2018

The Surf City Volunteer Fire Company and EMS will begin offering reusable bags in lieu of single-use plastic bags. Money raised from the sale of those bags will benefit the firehouse. It’s the only action to come out of the borough regarding the banning of carryout plastic bags since the issue was first brought to the attention of the borough council late last year.

Councilman James Russell made the announcement for Councilman Pete Hartney, an officer with the fire company, who was absent from the Feb. 14 meeting. Nothing else was mentioned on the issue until the public comment portion of the hour-long meeting.

“Thank you for going slow. We realize this is a hot button issue,” Dan Malay, president of the Surf City Business Cooperative, told the council. The cooperative promotes tourism and business in the borough through marketing, networking and presentation of pro-tourism matters at the local government level.

In December, Mary Wilding, Teresa Hagan and Michelle Farias, all members of the Garden Club of LBI, addressed borough officials, hoping to sway them to take action in favor of a complete embargo of single-use plastic bags. Surf City government has not acted, nor has that in neighboring Ship Bottom.

Harvey Cedars became the second Island municipality to adopt the ban, after Long Beach Township, which was the first state to ban the commercial use of single-use plastic bags. Bait shops are exempt under the township’s ordinance, which goes into effect May 1. Harvey Cedars’ ban follows a month later on June 1.

Just last week, the Stafford Township Council introduced an ordinance that would ban businesses there from distributing single-use plastic bags. A second reading and adoption of the ordinance isn’t expected before the unofficial summer season arrives Memorial Day Weekend. At the beginning of the month, the owners of Mud City and the Old Causeway Steak and Oyster House, both on East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin, announced they are no longer offering single-use plastic bags to do their part in keeping the bags out of the woods, bays, marshes, oceans and landfills. They also own Ship Bottom Shellfish on the Boulevard in Ship Bottom. Their self-imposed plastic bag ban applies there, too.

Malay, who owns How You Brewin’ in the borough and in Barnegat Light, said the cooperative has surveyed its members and the results were surprising.

“I am confident all our Surf City merchants are environmentally conscious and are willing to take steps to assuage the ecological impact of doing business,” Malay said when asked about the initiative to ban plastic bags earlier this year. “My concern is over the unintended consequences of a plastic bag ban, which might address the fact they are not recyclable but diverts us to other products that have a much more significant carbon footprint and resulting environmental impact than plastic bags. Why institute a ban on a product that then drives us to use alternatives that have equal or greater negative impact on the community, all the while costing the business owner and consumer more?  In the end, it would appear that education towards multi-use is the better answer over legislation.”

— Gina G. Scala

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