MARGATE — In an effort to cut down on plastic-bag use, Margate is launching a new program that will have businesses distribute 10,000 reusable bags to customers.

The program, called "Bag it Forward," will start in the spring with a majority of local businesses on board. Shoppers will be given recyclable, fabric bags they can return at any participating stores or keep for future use. The city and the Margate Business Association are working together on the program.

"It will become cyclical in nature," said MBA Executive Director Anna Maria Blescia-Courter.

Margate has not joined a growing number of shore towns that have placed fees on single-use plastic bags in hopes of reducing the amount of litter that ends up on beaches and in the ocean.

In Margate, plastic bags will still be used as a backup, Blescia-Courter said.

"The point is to convert everything to reusable bags and get plastic bags out of circulation," she said. "We're not putting a cost burden on anyone."

The initial cost for Margate's new program is several thousand dollars, Blescia-Courter said. Those costs are being covered by Downbeach Dental, Tomatoe's Restaurant and Colmar Hardware.

Longport became the first municipality in the state to pass an ordinance placing fees on single-use plastic bags in 2016, followed by Ventnor, Brigantine, Somers Point and others.

Meanwhile, a bill sits in the state Legislature that would ban stores from distributing single-use plastic bags and straws all together.

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