June 18, 2009

Plastic Bag Ban Moves Forward

I was alerted by a Tweet from Laura Leslie noting:I find it interesting that the OBX plastic bag ban is getting a more vigorous debate on my Facebook page than it got on the House floor.
Senate Bill 1018 AN ACT To Reduce Plastic and nonrecycled paper Bag use on north carolina's outer banks passed the House on its 3rd reading today and moved back to the NC Senate for concurrance. Expect it to pass the Senate again and soon.
I found Leslie's comment cogent since the issue has not been debated much on the local scene either. You can decide whether that silence implies consent (support) or acceptance of a fait accompli. The legislation has been on a fast track ever since Sen. Basnight assembled a group of local government leaders at Lone Cedar restaurant and told them what he wanted to do. Since then there was been a lot of local mumbling but no organized support or resistance. I suggest that if a local government pursued similar legislation the local retail community would be engaged in the debate at best and simply howling bloody murder at ?worst?. Given that it was proposed by arguably the most powerful poitician in the state and it being considered on his turf, its passage was assured before it was drafted. Because the impacts are limited to the local area there is little reason for anyone in Raleigh to protest.
Lets look for a minute at what the bill does:
First it applies only to the barrier island strand in Currituck and Dare counties and Ocracoke and Roanoke Island. The mainland sections of Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties are not included.
It applies to chain stores (more than 5 outlets in the state) and retailers with over 5,000 sq. ft in retail space. That inlcudes all the food stores plus Wings and some other large retailers like Ben Franklin (maybe). There are some local chains that may be affected like Kitty Hawk Kites and Nags Head Hammocks.
The bill bans the use of plastic bags and requires that covered stores supply recycled paper bags
instead. Plastic bags can be used for:
(1) Fresh fish or fresh fish products.
(2) Fresh meat or fresh meat products.
(3) Fresh poultry or fresh poultry products.
(4) Fresh produce.

and if food safety rules require them. Otherwise its the customers bag or recycled paper.
The goal is noble, reduce litter and protect the environment on the fragile barrier islands. It remains to be seen just how well the system will work. It won't take effect until Sept. 1 of this year. It requires retailers to post notices explaining the new requirement. Maybe the Chamber will get rental managers to include the notice in their rental brochure and web site. Whatever happens it will take a year or two for visitors to get used to the idea even if they use reusable bags at home.
IMO the bill will have little impact. I don't see plastic bags littering the area as much as I see detritus from trash truck's leakage and the backs of pick ups. Time will tell just how effective the new rule will be. If it is half as effective as the political jaugernaut that produced the law we will be well served.
PS. If you don't follow Laura Leslie's blog on NC politics your are missing a real treat

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