• August 17, 2019

Experts share green practices - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Experts share green practices

‘Problem with Plastics’ offers tips, tricks to cut back on use

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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2019 3:02 pm

OCEAN CITY — Taking restaurant leftovers home in containers brought from home, getting restaurants to use reusable cutlery and using reusable produce bags at the grocery store were just a few of the many suggestions to reduce plastic use during an Atlantic-Cape May Sustainable Jersey Hub meeting Wednesday, July 17.

The program “The Problem with Plastics 3.0: Reducing our Impact,” which was held in the Ocean City Community Center, was part of a series the organization held about plastics. 

This presentation included several speakers from throughout Atlantic and Cape May counties, including: Joe Clark, of the Ocean City Green Team; Jenny Olson, the Stone Harbor tourism director; Ron Meischker, a Somers Point councilman and founder of the Patcong Creek Foundation; Jenn Jennings, of the Patcong Creek Foundation in Somers Point; Steve Jasiecki, of Sustainable Margate and Sustainable Downbeach; Lisa Edson, owner of Whisk Bakery & Restaurant; Eric Schmehl, owner of Fermented; Meaghan Netherby, of the Surfrider Foundation; and Melanie Lynch, chief sustainability officer for Galloway Township. 

Several topics were covered, including ways businesses, municipalities and individuals can reduce their single-use plastic use, proper recycling and reducing what they use. 

Olson, Meischker and Jennings discussed municipal single-use plastic bans and fees. Somers Point implemented a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic bags last year. 

According to Jennings, the average lifespan of a single-use plastic bag is 11 minutes. 

She said that since Somers Point is bordered on three sides by water, at a certain point members of City Council felt they needed to move forward with encouraging people to use fewer single-use plastics. 

She credited Meischker with spearheading the fee. 

According to Jennings, some businesses in the area worked to prepare the public for the change. 

ShopRite of Somers Point put out many reusable bags in advance of the fee and used money from the fee to donate water bottle refilling stations in local schools. 

She also cited a survey Stockton University students conducted about Somers Point’s bag fee. 

Of 172 shoppers that participated in the survey, 7 percent used single-use bags after the fee was implemented, according to a news release about the survey. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they used reusable bags and 33 percent said they did not use bags. More than 50 percent of those surveyed cited the bag fee as their reason for not using single-use bags. 

Olson said that, effective as of June, Stone Harbor banned all single-use plastics, including Styrofoam, straws, utensils and more. 

“We’re a coastal community as well and we felt it was our responsibility to take that first step and ban it outright,” she said. 

Initially, the ban was meant to go into effect in January, but Olson said the businesses were given an extra six months so they could use up the supplies they had purchased. 

The ordinance also has a hardship exemption. 

“If a company has already bought all of their single-use plastics or take-out containers for the year, we want them to get a chance to use them up,” she said. 

She said they encourage the public to use reusable bags when they shop and to reuse the plastic bags they do have. 

Jasiecki discussed a water refilling station that Sustainable Downbeach uses at farmers markets, sporting events and more. 

“It’s very, very popular,” he said. 

He also discussed local balloon-release bans. 

“We have thousands and thousands of balloons washing up on our beaches,” he said. 

He also showed several popped balloons during the program that he said are “what we’re picking up” off the beaches. 

After the balloons pop, they come down. 

“You can see that this (popped balloon) resembles a jellyfish and gets ingested by turtles,” he said. 

Margate was the first town in the state to ban it, according to Jasiecki. He said 25 municipalities in the state have joined Margate. 

Edson discussed her effort to reduce plastic waste in her businesses. 

“Every day, we use 500 million straws in this country,” she said.  

That amounts to 73 metric tons of plastic in a year, according to Edson, whose restaurant now uses only paper or compostable straws. 

She said that one, two or three people doing small things becomes big things in the long run. Their cups and lids are made with polylactic acid (PLA) plastic, which is corn-based and biodegrades in 120 days, she said. Their take-out containers are made from post-consumer paper and sugar cane, which also biodegrade fast, according to Edson. 

This summer, their restaurant is selling beach buckets for $3. If a customer purchases one and brings it back filled with trash collected, they receive five points, which Edson said is equivalent to a baked cookie. 

Schmehl, who owns Fermented, which sells brewing supplies, started selling bulked food goods. 

He also used to sell some supplies in one-pound plastic bags. Now a customer can purchase a reusable container and take a smaller amount if they like. 

He is also trying to install solar panels on the roof of his complex. 

Neatherby discussed the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, which encourages customers and restaurants to make sustainable choices. 

“I feel like this program has great potential to impact change,” she said. 

There are five mandatory criteria for restaurants to be deemed ocean-friendly. There are also additional optional criteria. Restaurants can choose two of the six optional criteria. 

The criteria includes: not using Styrofoam; using proper recycling practices; not using plastic bags for take-out orders; using reusable flatware for dining-in options and providing plastic utensils only upon request for take-out orders; and providing plastic straws only upon request. 

Sustainable Jersey provides the restaurant with signage so customers know some items are provided only upon request. 

Some of the optional criteria include: not selling beverages in plastic bottles; serving sustainable seafood; having water-conservation efforts in place; serving vegetarian options and having energy-efficiency efforts in place, such as using LED lighting or Energy Star appliances. 

Lynch discussed how she adopted more sustainable practices in her personal life.

For her, this started out of necessity, when she and her fiancé moved from a 1,200-square-foot house in Collingswood to about a 500-square-foot apartment in Atlantic County. 

She said they had to pare-down and declutter to do so.

The next thing they did, she said, was go online to places such as Catalog Choice to stop most of their catalogues and junk mail. 

They donated some of the books they had and joined a local library instead. 

She said people can donate books, CDs and DVDs, or find a store, such as Tunes, that buys CD and DVD collections. 

They take reusable water bottles and reusable cups for coffee everywhere they go, she said. 

Lynch suggested using a washable snack bag or a reusable snack container instead of a plastic snack back, using reusable produce bags, and bringing reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers. 

She said she shares home goods with her sister and suggested sharing some items that aren’t used frequently with friends and neighbors, such as a snow shovel.

Lynch also said there are stores, such as Mom’s Organic Market in Cherry Hill, that accept hard-to-recycle items, such as beauty products and juice pouches. 

She said she takes items there when she is in that area, such as visiting Philadelphia. 

Lynch also quoted Laurie Buchanan, “whatever you are not changing, you are choosing,” she said.

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