The Surfrider Foundation, South Jersey Chapter, Sustainable Downbeach, and Ventnor Green Team have been working together to encourage the City of Ventnor to become the second in New Jersey to put a fee on paper and plastic bags provided at the checkout counter. A potential bag fee ordinance is on the agenda for discussion at the May 11th commissioners workshop meeting. Please take this survey to tell the commissioners your thoughts! 

We are recommending a five cent fee on all paper and plastic bags provided at checkout. Here are some details in the potential ordinance:

– A customer WILL NOT be charged the five cents if she/he brings their own bag or chooses not to take a bag.
– The ordinance would apply to supermarkets, liquor stores, convenience stores, and clothing and gift shops, among others. It would not apply to restaurants.
– People paying with SNAP, EBT, WIC, or other public assistance programs will not be charged for a bag.
– This fee applies only to paper and plastic checkout bags. No one will be charged for handleless plastic bags that are used for loose produce like apples; handleless plastic bags provided at the deli, meat, and seafood counters; bags used to conceal prescription medicine; or dry cleaner bags.
– An education period of at least six months will be implemented before any store is required to charge the fee or fined for noncompliance.
– This is not a tax. It is a user fee, much like beach tags. A tax is collected by the government to fund public expenditures. This bag fee will remain with the merchant to offset their costs of purchasing the bags.

Five cents might not seem like enough to change the habit of taking single-use bags, but research from Washington DC proves otherwise. Washington DC enacted a five cent fee on bags in 2009. Here are some highlights from a 2013 survey of residents and businesses to see how the bag law was working:

  • 80% of residents reduced their disposable bag use.
  • Average resident household use declined from 10 to 4 disposable bags per week.
  • 79% of businesses reported their customers using fewer disposable bags.
  • 50% of businesses reported saving money as a result of the law.
  • Only 16% of residents and 8% of businesses expressed concerns about the law.

We can learn a lot from Washington DC. The amount of disposable plastic we use on a daily basis is having an extreme negative impact on our environment and wildlife. No one wants to swim in an ocean full of plastic or go to a beach covered in trash. The bag fee is one small way we can make a difference by bringing awareness to a larger issue and stopping pollution at its source.

If you want to get involved in the campaign to put a fee on bags in Ventnor, please contact Beth at chair@southjersey.surfrider.org.