Businesses Have Adapted to Plastics Ban

August 13, 2018
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A sign outside the Monmouth Beach Supermarket & Liquor Store reminds residents about the new borough-wide plastics ban. At two months in, there have been no fines or violations. Photo by Lily Marten

By Jay Cook |

MONMOUTH BEACH ¬– After one of the state’s toughest municipal anti-plastic laws went into effect in this small borough, businesses had to abruptly change the way they’ve always done business.

According to Mayor Sue Howard, it’s been mostly smooth sailing. Merchants have embraced the June 1 ban on single-use plastic bags, plastic drinking straws and takeout polystyrene foam containers, she said, and none have been issued any fines for noncompliance.

“I hope this catches on everywhere,” Howard, speaking of the law, told The Two River Times Monday. “And now, people are more receptive to doing something about it. It’s obvious that there’s a problem when you see what washes up on our shores and our beaches.”

Sierra Risden, manager of Monmouth Beach’s Booskerdoo coffee shop, holds cornstarch straws currently being sold in the store. However, they don’t comply with the borough’s plastic ban ordinance. Booskerdoo is in the process of eliminating plastic straws from all four of their stores. Photo by Jay Cook

Monmouth Beach, with about 3,000 residents over only 2 square miles, bordered by both the Shrewsbury River and the Atlantic Ocean, was the first to take action after a recent report from Clean Ocean Action’s 2017 Beach Sweeps revealed 84 percent of all debris recovered was plastic, the highest percentage in more than 30 years of beach sweeps.

Borough officials and residents swiftly moved to pass the local legislation just before Memorial Day, the kickoff to the busy summer season, forcing the local business community to react quickly.

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The Booskerdoo Coffee & Bake shops had to figure out how to serve iced coffee and tea to customers without the customary plastic straws.

The store ordered hundreds of cornstarch straws to replace the plastic ones, but then learned the borough had prohibited those, too. These firm, easily broken green straws, also known as PLA straws, still contain a small level of plastic and don’t immediately biodegrade.

The borough is allowing Booskerdoo to use up the cornstarch straws, said store manager Sierra Risden. After that, Booskerdoo will aim to ditch straws completely and move towards capping drinks with an adult “sippy cup” lid.

It’s a change they are considering implementing in their bustling coffee shops in Asbury Park, Fair Haven and Bell Works in Holmdel, said Risden.

“It’s great because the beach is so close to us,” Risden said. “Anything that’s left lying around here will definitely make its way over there. We’re more than happy to help the environment.”

Change is also evident at Beach Tavern of Monmouth Beach, a popular dockside restaurant on the Shrewsbury River. Owners Gina and Ken Mansfield have removed all plastic products from the eatery.

“This is a little more personal because we’re right on the water, and little by little people are getting used to it,” said general manager Arturo Rojas. “The problem is, though, that everybody is so used to getting straws.”

Beach Tavern has adapted since June 1. Patrons will notice straws are no longer served with any drink. If one is requested, then servers will bring out paper straws, Rojas said. At 50 cents apiece, the cost hurts the bottom line, but the benefit is paper straws mostly disintegrate in a few hours.

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The most profound changes have come from the takeout and to-go departments. So long to the days of plastic carryout bags and foam containers after a meal. All leftovers now go into cardboard boxes of varying sizes.

Rojas hopes other area restaurants will soon follow suit. Jersey Shore restaurateur Tim McLoone told The Two River Times last month his 11 restaurants are moving away from plastic straws. Rojas calls that a move in the right direction.

“Do you really need (plastic)? Is it something that you must have? That’s the question,” he said. “And no, I don’t think you do. Just because it’s there we think we need it.”

However, the transition hasn’t been totally smooth for some businesses, especially the borough’s only major store – Monmouth Beach Supermarket and Liquor. Manager Abe Arango told The Two River Times he and some of his customers were unaware of the plastic ban ordinance altogether.

“There should have been more meetings and every person in town should have got a notice,” Arango said inside the sister Sea Bright Supermarket and Liquor store, which he also manages. “How many times do you get an advertisement in the mail? They should have done that.”

Arango responded by implementing his own rule. Since plastic shopping bags are outlawed, shoppers are charged a 10-cent fee for paper bags upon checkout. They’re also encouraged to bring their own reusable bag. The fee goes to covering costs on buying the more expensive paper bags, he said.

This article was first published in the August 9-16, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times, featuring Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach. 

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