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Too Many Re-Usable Bags Laying Around? Brick Has a Solution at Its 2023 Farmers Market

Re-usable bags from the ShopRite supermarket. (Photo: ShopRite)

Re-usable bags from the ShopRite supermarket. (Photo: ShopRite)

Last year, when New Jersey banned plastic bags from being offered at supermarkets, environmental advocates cheered while some consumers said the policy was destined to become a costly annoyance. In reality, both sides had valid points: plastic bags were far less commonly collected during beach sweeps last year, a definitive plus for the Shore environment, but shoppers often lament having to pay for additional re-usable bags whenever they shop, normally after realizing they didn’t bring previously-purchased bags with them.

Shoppers have also said that they’ve become inundated with re-usable bags tucked away in the corners of their kitchens or strewn about the back seats of their cars. In Brick, however, there may be a solution, according to Mayor Lisa Crate. At this year’s weekly Farmers Market event, which begins May 6, there will be a “Leave a Bag, Take a Bag” station – an idea that was brought to the attention of the mayor by a Brick Township High School student who attends the school’s STEM Academy.

“She had a great idea about how we can re-use our re-usable bags,” Crate said. “It seems like now, people have a huge influx of these re-usable bags every time they shop, because people forget and have to buy more.”

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The idea is similar to the old “Leave a Penny, Take a Penny” containers at store counters – only on a larger scale and at a central location at the market.

“If you realize you forgot a bag, you can grab a few, or if you have a bunch of bags stored up at home, you can bring them with you,” said Crate. “And those you don’t use in your own shopping, you can leave in the bin for other shoppers to use.”

The plastic bag ban remains controversial in New Jersey, though legislative efforts to modify it have never drawn enough support to make it to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy.

The environmental group Clean Ocean Action said 82 percent of litter collected during its biannual beach sweeps last fall were plastic items, but the presence of plastic bags fell by 37 percent. A poll conducted in February showed residents were split on the issue, with a minority of 40 percent of respondents replying that the plastic bag law should remain in place. A plurality of respondents said the ban should either be overturned completely (33 percent) or modified (26 percent) to allow plastic bags – or at least paper bags – in some scenarios. The same poll found strong support for the ban from Democrats and strong opposition from Republicans.

Brick’s program is unlikely to end the oft-political debate over the plastic bag ban, but it could prove useful to reduce the annoyance of forgotten bags during a trip to the market, or to prevent the law’s stated purpose of reducing the number of bags in circulation from being undermined, ironically, by residents being inundated with more bags than ever.

“Hopefully that will help our residents looking for a way to get rid of their bags, and will help our other residents who forget to bring their bags when they come shopping,” Crate said.

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