Jersey Shore visitors asked to skip the plastic

 Clean Ocean Action is urging visitors to the Jersey Shore to forgo disposable plastic products. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Clean Ocean Action is urging visitors to the Jersey Shore to forgo disposable plastic products. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

If you head to the Jersey Shore this holiday weekend, you might be seeing a guide on restaurant tables urging you to cut down on disposable plastic products.

Clean Ocean Action is distributing the pamphlets that suggest alternatives to plastic products.

Melissa Mertz,  an intern with the group, said plastic products account for the vast majority of litter on New Jersey beaches.

“The public has a plastic habit that’s evidenced by always grabbing extra plastic utensils, extra plastic straws, using water bottlers, and always carrying our groceries in plastic bags. Plastic has been so deeply integrated into our lives, that we forget the consequences of our actions every time we use them.”

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That plastic waste can harm marine life, said Mertz, who is studying environmental policy at Rutgers University.

Marilyn Schlossbach supports that effort to reduce the amount of disposable plastic products. She owns five restaurants at the Jersey Shore and is not giving plastic straws to customers with their drinks unless they ask for one.

“In the last month I’ve heard from staff of a handful of people who have requested a straw. In the summertime maybe close to 8,000 people go through this place and spend money a week, So if three out of 8,000 people want a straw, I think we’ve made a major impact.”

Schlossbach says the policy is also saving her money and hopes it will encourage other shore businesses to take steps to reduce the amount of plastic trash.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, has sponsored a bill to ban the use of tiny plastic particles called microbeads in personal care products.

“We don’t know exactly what the implications are, but we assume that, because it’s plastic, that it’s going to be ultimately ingested by animals and actually get up into the human food chain as well,” Pallone said. “The problem is that these beads are so small that they just go down the drain, and it’s not caught by the sewer system.”

New Jersey has already enacted such a ban.

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