Editorial: State Or Municipal Authority For Plastic Bags

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 26 April 2017 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Both the Towns of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach recently adopted resolutions opposing bills in the State House and Senate that would repeal a ban on single-use plastic bags in the Outer Banks. (See report on page 1-A).
Some elected leaders in both Towns expressed opinions that rather than the State Legislature controlling such bans, local municipalities should be able to decide whether or not to impose bans on plastic bags often used at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail businesses. They agreed the State should let cities and towns decide what's best for their communities.
On the other hand, those in favor of repealing the only ban permitted back in 2009 of plastic bags along the Outer Banks, claim the ban had negative economic impacts for businesses.
In North Carolina, municipalities typically can only legislate what the State Legislature allows them to control. Municipalities are an arm of the State and are in fact incorporated entities voted into existence by the legislature over time.
One one hand, it seems like  a perfectly sound argument. Let the local leaders decide what's best for their community. They will be influenced by their vocal constituents and whether or not enough people support them at the ballot box during an election.
Currently, at the State level, the legislature has been lobbied by a group called the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA). Obviously they lobbied legislators to get bills introduced into the House and Senate to repeal the ban in the Outer Banks. Repeal, but no other option to curtail the environmental aspect of plastic bags.
Granting local governments the ability to ban plastic bags could create a state map where some towns ban while others won't. For example, let's say Carolina Beach voted to ban the bags, but Wilmington didn't want to ban the bags. Imagine that scenario across municipalities in all 100 of North Carolina's counties.
The State Legislature needs to have a frank discussion about what mechanisms and incentives can be put in place to encourage the industry to migrate to reusable or paper bags over a period of time.
The issue isn't going away. Single-use plastic bags are extremely convenient. Personally, I prefer reusable bags, but when I'm in a hurry, plastic bags are the way to go. If that option didn't exist, reusable bags would become the new "normal" option.

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