Two South Jersey environmental groups were awarded by Gov. Phil Murphy for their efforts to reduce plastic pollution on Absecon Island.
The Surfrider Foundation's South Jersey Chapter and Sustainable Downbeach won the Governor's Environmental Excellence Award for their work to cut down on plastic bag use and balloon releases in Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport.
In 2015, Longport became the first municipality in the state to ban plastic and paper bags for carry-out at its businesses after the groups lobbied local leaders.
About 15 other towns in New Jersey have followed suit since then. Earlier this year, Ventnor passed a five cent fee for single-use plastic bags. It includes a $100 fine for businesses that violate the ordinance.
The groups also pushed for the 2017 passage of an ordinance banning intentional balloon releases on Absecon Island.
The groups won in Healthy and Sustainable Communities award, one of eight different categories.
"We are just thrilled to receive this award for our work fighting plastic pollution," said Beth Kwart, chair of the Surfrider Foundation's South Jersey Chapter in a press release. "We've worked so hard and for so long to help people and communities Rise Above Plastics in the South Jersey area."