Monmouth Beach leading the way for New Jersey

Patty Booth O’Neill
Monmouth Beach – There was nothing but praise and words of thanks for the Monmouth Beach Mayor and Commissioners at Tuesday night’s meeting after Mayor Susan Howard and Commissioners James Cunniff and Dave Stickle voted to pass ordinance 0-08-18.

Commissioner Dave Stickle; members of the Environmental Commission, Brian Thompson (NBC News), Betsy Palazzo-Dudick, and Chairman Mark Cohen; Mayor Susan Howard; and Commissioner James Cunniff.

The ordinance will limit the use of single-use plastic bags, polystyrene (styrofoam containers) and plastic straws by businesses in the borough.

What does this mean? No more styrofoam to-go containers, no more plastic straws and no more plastic bags with handles. Some plastic bags are allowable, such as  bags that are used for bait, or to separate foods, and dry cleaner bags.

In a rare occurrence­ at any council meeting no one stood up to express their opposition or disapproval. People even came from other towns to say thank you — one man from California representing Surfrider Foundation, an environmental organization, and another from Asbury Park.

The Mayor and Commissioners were thanked for being examples for other towns.

The whole O’Keefe family — children Nolan, Oceanne and Ayden and wife Natalie — went to watch a precedent be set. “I wanted my kids to come so they can see how this impacts their lives,” said Brian O’Keefe. “How a small community can make a big difference.” He also hoped that pesticides and fertilizers will be next on the list.

Gina Mansfield from Beach Tavern shows the paper straws they now use at the restaurant.

Kathleen Gasienica, President of the American Littoral Society, a coastal conservation organization based at Sandy Hook, applauded Monmouth Beach for introducing and passing the groundbreaking ordinance. “You are improving the health of the environment and residents of all New Jersey.”

Gasienica said that most importantly Monmouth Beach was taking a leadership role. “It only takes one wave to get the whole ocean rolling, and I can’t tell you how huge this is and we really appreciate your leadership role. I’m from Red Bank, and we would love to pass an ordinance like this and we will be using your example.”

Richie Lee from the Surfers Environmental Alliance, said he loves to see children get involved.

He spoke about how fifth grade students from the Long Branch George L. Catrambone School saw a photo of a turtle with a straw stuck in its nose and started a campaign that resulted in all Long Branch school cafeterias no longer using straws.

“It great to see someone step up and attempt to take hold of a problem you now see on the cover of National Geographic and the Wall St. Journal,” Lee said.

Those at the meeting who spoke about collecting garbage off the beach said that the amount was shocking.
Over 84% of the debris picked up on beach is plastic from single-use items.

Cindy Ziff of Clean Ocean Action started beach sweeps in 1985 when they used to pick up paper and wood. Now, she said, plastics are the front page of National Geographic, when they used to celebrate the wonders of the world. “They now focus on the plastic planet we are creating. We’re seeing a terrible trend,” Ziff said.

Kathleen Gasienica, President of the American Littoral Society, hopes Red Bank will follow suit. Sitting to the right, (in baseball cap) Richie Lee from the Surfers Environmental Alliance also spoke with passion about the cause and its importance.

Americans use 500 million straws daily, enough to wrap around the earth two and a half times each day.

The regulations of the ordinance are intended as necessary and proper steps by the governing body of Monmouth Beach to address a significant global problem relating to the sale and use of these products, which are causing significant threats to wildlife, the environment and public health.

“We do not want to enforce, we want to inform,” said Boro attorney Dennis Collins.

“But,” the Mayor added, “violators will be fined as described by law, which could be up to $2,500. The codes will be enforced by Monmouth Beach Patrolman Peter Farmer.
Every business in Monmouth Beach had received a letter informing them about the ordinance being passed.
Gina Mansfield from Beach Tavern was introduced by Commissioner Stickle as being “ahead of the game.”

Beach Tavern has already eliminated plastic straws, uses paper straws and to-go orders are in paper bags. “We are going towards only offering a straw if someone asks,” she said. “I have three children, and I’m very passionate about this, for them and future kids.”