Ship Bottom Encouraged to Adopt Plastic Bag Ban

Dec 06, 2017

During the 60 seconds it took Theresa Hagan to address the Ship Bottom Borough Council last week about the use of single-stream plastic bags, more than a million were used and discarded around the world. Hagan, Michelle Farias and Mary Wilding spoke before the council at its monthly caucus meeting, hoping to encourage members to consider a ban of the single-stream plastic bags, like neighboring Long Beach Township, which adopted an ordinance last month.

“We expect to get push-back,” Hagan opened her remarks.

And they did from Councilman Tom Tallon, who said there are other solutions to the issue rather than an outright ban.

“I get that the environment is important,” he said, adding educating people to recycle is one way to curb the use of the bags. “Ocean County recycling is a success story.”

Municipalities are limited by what the county can accept, argued Wilding, adding, “Plastic bags don’t go away. About 80 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from the land. The good news is we can control it.”

But the question is how when so many of the local businesses use single-stream plastic bags and with the influx of summer tourists and seasonal homeowners.

“We made the change from plastic to paper,” Farias, whose family owns Farias Surf and Sport in the borough, said. “It’s (brown bags) a way of life in California. When you go shopping, you can bring your own bags. It can be done.”

Tallon argued single-stream plastic bags are easier for seniors to carry than brown paper bags.

“The choice is canvas,” Hagan said, noting the argument that E. coli risks increase without the plastic bag option is bogus. She said the answer is to educate people to use separate bags for meat and produce, the same way people are encouraged to use separate cutting boards.

Mayor William Huelsenbeck said he’s familiar with California because his children live there, though he is unsure how summer tourists would handle a ban. Still, he acknowledged there are more than 30 million annual visitors to San Diego, and no single-stream plastic bags for commercial use.

“We’re an island. We should be at the forefront,” Farias said.

That’s exactly where Long Beach Township is, thanks to the commissioners’ Nov. 6 adoption of an ordinance prohibiting businesses from distributing single-use plastic carryout bags, promoting reusable bags in their stead.

“The Board of Commissioners of the Township of Long Beach believe 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,” according to Ordinance 17-31 C, which is expected to take effect in the spring. “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 township ordinance notes that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as many as one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. It’s estimated less than 5 percent of that plastic is recycled.

Wilding, a Harvey Cedars resident, asked the township for a copy of its ordinance to present to the governing body there. And Beach Haven is considering a ban as well, if Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis has anything to say about it.

Back in Ship Bottom, Huelsenbeck assured Farias, Hagan and Wilding that he would place the topic on the council’s agenda for further discussion after the first of the year.

— Gina G. Scala


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