BELMAR, NJ — While Belmar businesses have until mid-May to replace plastic bags with more eco-friendly options, borough officials are considering whether to throw plastic straws and plastic foam containers into the mix.

During its effort this winter to ensure merchants are prepared for the upcoming ban on single-use plastic bags, the borough will also take the business community’s pulse on restricting the use of these other two types of plastic items that are widely used at food and drink establishments.

“Since there are other towns (banning plastic straws and foam plates), we’re not the first out of the gate on this,” said Councilman Thomas Brennan, who brought up the topic at the borough council’s September 2 meeting. “It’s something to consider … to take effect in conjunction with the plastic bag ban.”

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Following Mayor Brian Magovern's suggestion that the ban also include plastic foam items, due to their detrimental effects on the environment, there was general consensus among council members that affected merchants be consulted before any revisions are made to the ban on plastic bags that was approved in May.

“It’s worth investigating, but we have to get feedback from the business community first,” Councilman Mark Levis said, adding that it would need to be a “a gradual step,” if implemented.

Councilman Mark Walsifer pointed out that one business — Sweet Tease Tea Room and Café — has already switched over to paper straws.

Brennan said that prohibiting the use of these additional plastic items is a simple move, but it would speak volumes in raising public awareness of “how much plastic is entering the environment and how it always ends up in our food.”

In fact, plastic is the most common type of trash littering Jersey Shore beaches, including Belmar's 1.3-mile oceanfront, according to data compiled by Highlands-based Clean Ocean Action.

Meanwhile, Brennan said that the borough is in the process of replenishing its depleted supply by custom-printed reusable bags, which were quickly gobbled up by the business community last year.

The bags are imprinted with the slogan, “I’m the solution to plastic pollution” that is placed in the shape of a black and green turtle — a winning logo in a contest for local students to design the bags. The initiative was part of the public awareness campaign by the Belmar Environmental Commission to help reduce plastic bag usage.

Brennan, who serves as council liaison to the commission, said that most supermarkets now have drop-off receptacles for single-use plastic bags so that they can be reprocessed into new ones. In addition, he said to visit earth911.org to learn more about plastic bag recycling.

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