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Editorial: Paper or Plastic? How About A Reusable Bag?

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

It's a great idea to help educate the public on the benefits of carrying reusable bags rather than opting for those thin single-use plastic bags that can cause a lot of harm to wildlife and the environment. Not many people are fans of banning such bags and while other communities in the United States have done just that with varying levels of successful impact, any effort to encourage voluntary use of reusable bags verses single-use bags is a step in the right direction. Slowly kicking the habit rather than going cold turkey. One proposal is to work with local merchants through an educational program where the Town of Carolina Beach provides 100 reusable bags. Merchants pay $100 as a "buy-in" fee. An annual $100 fee will be charged contributing to purchasing additional brochures and marketing in order to maintain the program as "self-sustaining and inform people about the need to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags.
The merchant will be responsible for purchasing additional reusable grocery bags once the initial 100 have been distributed. There are other details involved in the program which you can read about in a report on page 1-A of this week's edition titled, "Town To Work with Local Merchants to Reduce Plastic Bag Use".
The program is voluntary.
Personally, if I owned a grocery store, I'd purchase bags custom printed with the store's logo on either side rather than paying the Town a $1.00 per bag displaying the Town's logo. Nothing against the Town's program, it's about marketing the store above all else and that includes marketing visibility when people reuse those bags at other retail locations. A quick search of companies that sell custom printed bags online shows various deals including 600 bags, screen printing, setup, and shipping at around $0.87 per bag.  Nothing against the Town's program, they are seeking to generate awareness and educate people on reducing the use of plastic bags.
While around 90 cities in the U.S. have some type of ban on plastic bags, the state of North Carolina has only permitted it in one locality by special permission of the State General Assembly. Therefore, the Town cannot currently ban such bags. Although, it's likely sometime in the future that will become a possibility. Ironically, many still remember a time when paper bags were the only option at the grocery store. Then recycling became a trend and we heard the question "Paper or Plastic?"
And now the reusable bag industry is smiling. Regardless of whether merchants opt-in to the Town's program or purchase their own reusable bags, the Town and the Surfrider Foundation are helping to educate the public and generate awareness.
That's a great mission.