Do you need a bag? In Longport, NJ, it’ll cost you

Longport became the first municipality in New Jersey to require that businesses charge a fee for single-use plastic and paper bags, after the board of commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance Friday.

Mayor Nick Russo framed the fee as an awareness campaign to get consumers thinking about how they discard the bags that often wash up on the beach or in the sewers of the Shore community just south of Atlantic City.

“Is 10 cents really going to affect our economy?” Russo said. “No.”

“But hopefully it will sensitize people to, ‘Hey, why is this fee in place? Why was this ordinance passed?'”

Longport vendors will have to charge at least 10 cents per bag, but they will be able to pocket the profits.

Due to the town’s modest size — fewer than 1,000 year-round residents — only three Longport eateries fall under the scope of the ordinance.

Likie Nika, who owns Ozzie’s Luncheonette in Longport, supports the bag fee but vows not to let it cost her business.

“If a customer has an objection to it, I’ll put the 10 cents in, you know?” Nika said. “I’m not going to get into an argument with any of my customers over the charge.”

Plastic bags consistently pop up as one of the most collected items in beach cleanups, which makes the Longport ordinance all the more critical, according to Beth Kwart, chair of the South Jersey chapter of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation.

“They’re in the dunes. They’re in trees. They clog our storm drains,” Kwart said.

“And we know that the communities spend a lot of money on cleanup of these bags. So, even though right now they’re provided for free, we’re still paying for it through our tax dollars by paying for clean-up,” she added.

Kwart said now that the cat is out of the bag, the Surfrider Foundation is working with the nearby beach communities of Margate, Ventnor, and Brigantine to institute bag fees of their own.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.