BELMAR, NJ — Belmar businesses will need to toss those plastic bags and find a more environmentally friendly way to bag purchases.
And they would be given until next spring to find that new alternative, under a proposed measure introduced on May 1 by the borough council.
If the ordinance is adopted, Belmar would join a handful of municipalities in the state to implement a ban on single-use plastic bags as a way to help reduce the flow of plastic debris into the waterways.
For the past year, Belmar Councilman Thomas Brennan has championed the effort in this oceanfront community, where plastic bags are common pieces of trash littering the beaches.
“I would like to thank the mayor and council for their support. I look forward to working with our business community to ensure a smooth transition away from single-use plastic bags and their harmful effects on our health and environment,” he said, following the governing body’s unanimous vote to move forward with the proposed law. A public hearing and final vote is tentatively scheduled for its May 15 meeting.
Under the measure, Belmar businesses, including convenience stores, pharmacies, retail shops and food service establishments, would have until May 1, 2019 to make the switch-over to another type of bag — preferably reusable ones that have a minimum life span of 75 uses.
Plastic garment bags and produce or food bags for meat or similar products would be exempt. Also, establishments that sell fishing bait would still be permitted to use single-use plastic bags.
Businesses found in violation of the ordinance could face up a $2,500 fine for each occurrence, up to $10,000, according to the borough’s municipal code.
The ordinance includes federal Environmental Protection Agency statistics that show as many as 1 trillion plastic bags were used in 2016 in the United States, with less than 5 percent of that total being recycled.
Belmar's measure comes a year after the borough’s environmental commission launched a public awareness campaign to help reduce plastic bag usage among businesses by offering its own reusable tote with the slogan, “I’m the solution to plastic pollution,” placed in the shape of a black and green turtle — the winning logo in a contest for local students to design the bags.
Brennan, council liaison to the commission, is working with the Belmar Business Partnership (BBP) to replenish the borough’s supply of those bags, which were widely welcomed by the retail community last year.
"The Belmar Business Partnership believes plastic pollution is a serious environmental threat to coastal birds, sea life and marine wildlife, and we support efforts by town officials, residents and business owners to keep trash off our beaches and out of our waterways,” said Christine Cardellino, a member of the BBP board of trustees.
In fact, she added that a number of Belmar businesses already have adopted green initiatives on their own, such as using paper straws, biodegradable food takeout containers, recyclable cups and paper bags instead of plastic.