Surfrider sent the following letter to the state legislature in late March 2011:
On behalf of the Surfrider Foundation’s Outer Banks Chapter we are writing today to ask you to pull Senate Bill 318 off the legislative agenda for various reasons. SB 318 aims to repeal a plastic bag ban in the Outer Banks, which has been deemed successful and is widely supported in the area affected. None of the ten sponsors of SB 318 are from Hyde, Dare or Currituck counties, which is a cause for concern.
In a recent WCET television interview Senator Goolsby claimed that ‘merchants are screaming for some relief’ while Dare County manager, Bobby Outten said by telephone Wednesday, March 9 that compliance has not been an issue. “It’s not our responsibility to enforce a state law, but when you go into any of the stores, there are no plastic bags … they’re gone,” Outten said. (1)
Another recent quote from Senator Goolsby was “Now you talk about the good folks up there, the working folks, that are having to pay several dollars more a week when they go out and buy a lot of groceries just for bags.” We are not sure what the intention was but there is no burden on the consumer. Reusable bags are the best option for the environment and personal budgets in the long run. Surfrider would love to help with more education and outreach to stress the importance of reusable bags. We would be happy to go into local communities and work with retailers to sponsor reusable bag giveaways where needed.
SB 318 claims that “Whereas, the General Assembly finds that this prohibition impacts North Carolina businesses large and small, located not only in the Outer Banks but throughout North Carolina, and hinders their ability to create jobs;” but we are skeptical of that aspect and encourage you to create a specific jobs bill rather than SB 318. While stores are required to offer a rebate for reusable bags, that rebate is offset by the cost of a disposable bag the store would otherwise provide.
Furthermore, while the bill implies the plastic bag ban is a drain on the economy, the Outer Banks beaches have never been cleaner. And the response from tourists seems to indicate that they’re pleased with the outcome, suggesting more returning visitors — and therefore — more business in years to come.
There are a few mentions about plastic bag recycling in SB 318, and recycling is not a solution to this issue. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Plastic bags are difficult to recycle for the same reasons they are convenient to use. They are so light they fly out of curbside recycling bins, which often lack lids. If they make it to a recycling plant, the bags tend to wrap themselves around machinery, gumming it up. So, most curbside recycling programs don’t accept them.”(2) Various sources estimate that the recycling rate is somewhere between 1% on the low end and 10% on the high end. Either way, it’s quite low.
In conclusion, we hope that you will reconsider this unnecessary Senate Bill. Barrier islands such as the Outer Banks are very sensitive areas and because of their proximity to the Gulf Stream are important sea turtle nesting grounds that need additional protection. Local residents support the existing bag ban and we would be happy to work with you to get any dissenting businesses on board.
John Wasniewski, Co-Chair
Matt Walker, Co-Chair
Surfrider Foundation, Outer Banks Chapter
PO Box 1576
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948