Ship Bottom Offers Reusable Bags as Alternative to Carryout Plastic Bags

May 23, 2018

When Robert Rossi, the Ship Bottom recycling coordinator, was challenged with how the borough should handle single-use plastic bags, he knew exactly what he wanted to do: educate.

Instead of passing an ordinance to outright banish plastic carryout bags, the borough has embarked on a proactive campaign to reduce plastic bag usage, and to get everyone started, reusable bags are being distributed to homeowners and Realtors.

“We need to be proactive and we need to work together,” Rossi said at a meeting yesterday afternoon with Realtors, who the borough is relying on to get the message to summer visitors. Reaching renters and other summer visitors has been a bone of contention for people opposed to banning bags – how will they know, they’ve argued for months in other communities.

Residents received a card in the mail and are encouraged to bring the card, for proof of residency, to town hall to collect their reusable bags. The bags, one large and one small, were purchased through money the borough received from the county for its recycling efforts, Rossi said.

“Blood, sweat and tears paid for them,” he said. “It’s messy work, the recycling business, and we’re out there every day making sure we get it right.”

The borough has a three-strike-you’re-out policy for individuals who don’t get it right, Rossi said. Warnings are given and then after the last violation, a ticket is issued. The ticket, he said, is how he reaches members of the general public to educate them about recycling.

“If we don’t fine them,” he said, “they don’t come in and talk to me. I can’t educate them.”

Rossi believes education is the right thing to do when it comes to reducing reliance on plastic bags.

“If we just ban them and tell businesses you can’t do what you’ve always done,” he said, “they aren’t going to learn.”

Single-use plastic bags aren’t just bad for the environment, he noted, but for the recycling machines, and, by extension, the workers at the county recycling center in Lakewood, too.

“People have to climb in there to get them,” he said. “They can get hurt.”

Neighboring Long Beach Township passed an ordinance banning the use of carryout plastic bags last fall. It went into effect earlier this month and has mostly been met with positive responses from locals. Harvey Cedars’ measure prohibiting single-use bags is expected to go into effect June 1 and there is a special public discussion at 1 p.m., tomorrow, May 24, to discuss banning plastic bags in Beach Haven.

Under the township ordinance, businesses are prohibited from distributing plastic carryout bags to customers. Tackle shops may still use plastic bags for bait. And, as the ordinance clarifies, “the term single-use, plastic carryout bag does not include reusable bags, produce bags, product bags, or garment bags.” Bags may be used for raw meat as well.

At the township’s public hearings on the initiative last year, a number of individuals spoke in favor of banning plastic bags. No one voiced opposition to the restriction.

And while Ship Bottom won’t take action, some borough businesses, such as CVS, have begun to carry reusable bags near the self-checkout counters. Farias Surf and Sport, located on the Boulevard in Ship Bottom, made the break to brown paper bags and Ship Bottom Shellfish owners announced earlier this year they won’t be distributing single-use plastic bags any longer.

— Gina G. Scala

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