BELMAR, NJ — Belmar is hoping shoppers will ditch those flimsy plastic bags in favor of specially designed tote bags that will soon be available at stores throughout the borough’s central shopping district.

The Belmar Environmental Commission recently received its first 2,000 canvas tote bags emblazoned with “I’m the solution to plastic pollution” placed in the shape of a turtle — the winning logo in a contest for local students that kicked off its new public awareness campaign to help reduce plastic bag usage.

More than 500 beige bags with the distinctive black-and-green logo have been distributed at the Belmar Fresh Farmers Market in Pyanoe Plaza during the past two Saturdays, while another 200 were handed out during the Belmar’ Friday Night Concert on September 1, according to Belmar Councilman Thomas Brennan, its liaison to the environmental commission.

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Distribution to stores will soon begin, with participating merchants to display a decal bearing the logo in their shops. “We’re hoping that people will save the bags and bring them whenever they shop,” Brennan said. “That’s the whole idea — to encourage our residents and businesses not to use single-use plastic bags.”

With plastic bags having an average use time of 12 total minutes before being discarded, they are one of the most common pieces of trash littering Belmar beaches. In terms of their detrimental effects on the environment, plastic bags never degrade, pose a hazard for fish and other sea life, and can clog sewer lines.

And in a beachfront community like Belmar — where the Atlantic Ocean is to the east, the Shark River to the west, Lake Como to the south, and Silver Lake and the Shark River Inlet to the north — the potential for plastic bags winding up in those waters grows dramatically when the population swells to some 50,000 on any given summer weekend.

Winning the logo contest held this spring was Delia Noone, a junior at Communications High School in Wall, whose design depicts a turtle with an oval body that resembles a plastic bag. The 17-year-old Middletown resident’s goal was to create an image that blended together the themes of pollution and nature. Her design was chosen from 103 submissions by students in grades four through 12 from Monmouth County, and as far away as Piscataway and Perth Amboy.


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