News: Quick Takes

N.C. Retail Merchants Association responds to plastic bag ban

The N. C. Retail Merchants Association are praising lawmakers for House Bill 56, which repeals the Outer Banks plastic bag ban.

The ban, passed in 2009, was intended to reduce litter and protect the environment by banning retailers and restaurants in the Outer Banks from giving customers plastic bags. Opponents argue the ban has done more harm than good.

“The plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks has been financially crippling for many of our retail members yet, as evidenced by state and industry statistics, consumers have not adopted the reusable shopping bags as part of their practice,” Andy Ellen, president and general counsel of NCRMA says in a news release. “Meanwhile, plastic bags continue to be recovered in these areas at higher rates than before the ban.”

The Senate, by a 29-10 vote last week, passed a repeal of the ban. The House vote for the repeal was 61-44. H.B. 56 now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper, who is expected to veto it.

“[T]his step by the General Assembly removes an onerous regulation that has proven to provide no benefit but has created significant expenses to the businesses on the Outer Banks,” Ellen said.

According to NCRMA, some Outer Bank businesses spent about $40,000 to implement software for tracking and paying customers using reusable bags. Other merchants found the cost to operate a single location rose by about $50,000 annually after switching to paper bags. Paper bags cost retailers eight times more than plastic bags on average, the group says.

“Better consumer education and reuse and recycling of plastics are the best tools to reduce plastics being found on the beach or throughout North Carolina,” Ellen said.