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Chamber Opposes Repeal of Plastic Bag Ban

Note: This story has been updated.

RALEIGH — The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce is opposing a bill recently introduced in North Carolina General Assembly to repeal an existing ban on retailers’ use of plastic bags on the Outer Banks.

Rep. Beverly Boswell

The business group on Monday launched a petition and wrote a letter to Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, expressing its opposition to the measure, which Boswell introduced March 7. Rep. John R. Bell IV, R-Wayne, and John R. Bradford III, R-Mecklenburg were also primary sponsors of the bill.

Coastal representatives Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, and Michael Especiale, R-Craven, also signed on as sponsors. The bill passed the House March 8 on its first reading and was referred to the House Standing Committee on the Environment.

The chamber said it had reached out to several of its retail members and all had adapted their practices to meet the current regulation.

“Our retailers, large and small, have indicated that they do not want to see this ban repealed,” the chamber of commerce posted on its website. “… being in tune with their community and environment, and standing in opposition of the use of plastic bags and your proposed legislation, is more important to them. In addition, the minimal amount of money they would save on not purchasing paper bags will not have any impact on their hiring of additional employees.”

The plastic bag ban for large retailers was introduced by former state Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, in 2009 and was put into effect as a pilot program to address litter on beaches. The ban was expanded in October 2010 to include all retailers on the banks. It was one of the first plastic bag bans in the country. Since then, more than 125 communities in the United States have adopted similar measures.

Under the ban, businesses must offer to refund customers who bring their own reusable bags.

The bill states that the bag prohibition hinders the ability of state businesses to create jobs and that “that businesses have expended substantial capital to comply with this prohibition during a difficult economy when this capital could have been utilized to hire additional employees or expand their businesses …”

The bill proposes replacing the ban with an educational program about recycling plastic bags.

Repeals have been proposed before, including in 2011 when Republicans gained control of the legislature.

The single-use plastic bag, which is not bio-degradable, was introduced in the U.S. in the early 1970s by Mobil Oil as a way to increase the market for polyethylene, a petroleum by-product.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.