Residents, retailers decry proposal to reverse plastic bag ban

By on March 10, 2017

Paper bags at The Pit Surf Shop.

Many residents on the Outer Banks say they oppose a bill in the N.C. General Assembly that would lift the ban on the use of thin plastic shopping bags by retailers.

Several stores have added they are just fine with the prohibition instituted nearly eight years ago.

Some of those retailers said they were upset that information sent out by the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Beverly Boswell (R-Dare), showing why she supports the reversal included their business’ names.

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Boswell, who was elected to the Sixth District seat last November, has yet to comment on the bill after repeated requests.

House Bill 271 would roll back legislation initially instituted for larger retailers on the barrier islands from Corolla to Ocracoke in 2009 and then expanded to all businesses the following year.

It also required retailers to offer recyclable paper bags and to give at least a 5-cent rebate for each re-usable bag a customer provides.

The ban was championed by then-Senate leader Marc Basnight (D-Dare) as an effort to cut down on the use of the bags and promoted primarily as a way to keep the barrier islands’ beaches and waterways cleaner.

The repeal attempt appears to have significant support from the Republican leadership in the House, with majority leader John Bell, IV (R-Craven) and House deputy majority whip John Bradford, III (R-Mecklenburg) joining Boswell as primary sponsors.

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Boswell’s legislation is an almost mirror image of one introduced in the General Assembly in 2011 that eventually stalled out.

It also matches bills written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, and backed by a petroleum industry group in other states that have tried to roll back or block bag bans.

If approved, the repeal would go into effect on July 1.

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Just hours after the bill was introduced in the House on Tuesday, a wide majority of comments on the Outer Banks Voice and social media were against the legislation. Most said they liked not seeing the thin bags blowing around and finding them on the beach or that wildlife was less likely to be harmed.

Proponents of the repeal have mostly commented they still see the bags along the sides of roads, that the ban was another example of government overreach, or that making paper bags do just as much harm to the environment.

Constituents in Boswell’s district, which includes Dare, Hyde, Washington and part of Beaufort counties, who contacted her office by e-mail said they received responses that included a list of business from Corolla to Ocracoke from the N.C. Retail Merchants Association.

The header of the initial list of local retailers.

The trade group said the Outer Banks businesses on the list included both members and non-members.

Several of the local retailers on the list said they contacted the association Wednesday and Thursday and asked to be removed.

A later version of the list had a different headline, noting that it was an initial listing of stores located in the area affected by the plastic bag ban.

“The businesses below are not all NCRMA members nor does this indicate a position in support of or opposition to the proposed repeal,” was added as a disclaimer to the updated list.

» Click here to view the updated list and map from the NCRMA

Several retailers, including Whalebone Surf Shop and Secret Spot Surf Shop both in Nags Head and The Pit in Kill Devil Hills, posted Thursday on Facebook they asked the NCRMA to take them off the list, but they had not obliged.

Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce president Karen Brown said Friday morning they were drafting a full statement on the bill, but the chamber was going to come out against repeal.

Local government leaders in the three counties the ban encompasses have not issued statements on the proposal.

Read Joy Crist’s analysis in the Island Free Press »

Matt Walker of Outer Banks Milepost contributed to this story.


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