Carolina Beach Surveying Residents And Businesses On Plastic Bag Use

Carolina Beach Surveying Residents And Businesses On Plastic Bag Use Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 28 January 2015 05:00

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Plastic Bag Committee is seeking input from residents and business owners about the use of single-use plastic bags. The Town has posted a survey on their website at
The Town created the committee to investigate various policies regarding "single-use plastic bags" and the purpose of the survey is to better understand how residents use those bags on a daily basis. All responses are confidential and addresses are required to ensure only one response per household.
The survey poses questions such as whether residents use paper, plastic, reusable other methods when shopping. Also, if they use plastic bags, how do they dispose of them?
They survey poses the question, "Do you perceive plastic bags as harmful to the environment?" and ask the resident to explain their answer.
To survey businesses, the questions focus on surveying the type of business and types of bags offered to customers.
Also, the number of bags provided per day during the off-season and busy tourist season.
Business owners are asked to provide estimated annual costs of providing single-use plastic bags and which types of non-plastic alternatives they would consider stocking including certified compostable bags, cardboard boxes, paper bags, cotton reusable bags, none at all or some other type.
The business survey ask owners, "Would you be willing to remove single-use plastic bags from your business?" and, "What benefits (if any) do you see in removing single-use plastic bags?" Both questions ask the owner to elaborate on their answer.
The Town Council heard a presentation at their August 2014, meeting regarding banning single use plastic bags due to their impact on the environment and wildlife.
The Council was informed that a ban on plastic bags was not possible without special legislation approved by the North Carolina State Legislature. The Council agreed to put together a committee to look at ways of addressing the issue and promoting education about the positive aspects of using canvass or other types of reusable bags when shopping.
The Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation was asking New Hanover County and municipalities to consider a ban on single-use plastic bags and placing a fee on recycled content paper bags. The Cape Fear Chapter has gathered resolutions of support for the bag ordinance from all the coastal towns in the County and is looking to work with County Commissioners to develop a countywide ordinance that would ban plastic checkout bags and put a small fee on paper bags to encourage people to remember their reusable bags.
According to a presentation given at the August, meeting by Ethan Crouch of the Surfrider Foundation, some parts of the ocean are like a plastic soup, where there are six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton. Approx. 60-80% of marine debris is composed of plastics Approx. 80% of marine debris is from land-based sources.
Over 100,000 marine mammals die each year from ingestion or entanglement in plastics and over 1 million sea birds.
- 60-80% of marine debris is composed of plastics.
- 80% of marine debris is from land-based sources.
The Guinness Book of World Records named the plastic bag as the most ubiquitous consumer product of 2009, produced on the worldwide scale by the trillions. Approximately 1 million bags are used every minute.
Each year, over 24 billion lbs of single use plastic packing is produced.
In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make plastic bags that Americans consume, which works out to over 100 billion (bags) per year.
Manufacturing of plastic bags uses four percent of the world’s total oil production.
Impact of manufacturing 9 plastic bags is greater than that of driving a car 6/10 of a mile. This means that the annual consumption of plastic bags in the US (100 billion) is the equivalent of driving a car 6.67 billion miles… or more than 35 round trips from the Earth to the Sun.
Each ton of recycled bags saves the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil.
EPA estimates only 12% of plastic bags are being recycled.
In 2011 alone we placed 200 million plastic bags into landfills.
Once plastic has photodegraded to minute pieces in our oceans (often called a plastic soup), these small pieces of plastic are often mistaken by fish, birds or marine mammals and reptiles as food. Plastic particles provide no nutrients. As animals continue to feed on plastic, they take in more and more plastic material until they slowly starve to death.
Plastic is found floating in all the world’s oceans, everywhere from polar region to the equator.
A good bit of plastic created contains a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA) which is an organic compound used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins amongst other things. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised further concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants and young children. In September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance. In the European Union and Canada, BPA use is banned in baby bottles. Documented studies link BPA ingestion and exposure to animals and humans with issues of Obesity, Neurological issues, Thyroid Function, Breast Cancer, Neuroblastoma, Prostate development cancer, DNA methylation, and issues with the reproductive system and sexual behavior. As animals continue to ingest this plastic and the chemical BPA and are then eaten, through a process called bio-concentration, the chemical makeup becomes more concentrated.
In general, studies have shown that BPA can affect growth, reproduction and development in aquatic organisms. Among freshwater organisms, fish appear to be the most sensitive species.
Of more than ten million pieces of garbage picked up on ocean beaches in 2009 during International Coastal Cleanup Day, 1,126,774 were plastic bags. Plastic bag debris was second only to cigarette butts/filters (21%) in number and accounted for full 11% of all marine debris picked up. The total cost of litter collection, disposal and enforcement in the U.S. is estimated to be at least $11.5 billion annually. Businesses bear the burden of this cost, spending $9.1 billion annually and representing 79.5% of the total cost of litter abatement.
Over 123,000 tons of plastic grocery and merchandise bags comprise the California waste stream. This is equivalent to 16 billion plastic bags. Cities have estimated that the taxpayer cost to subsidize the recycling, collection, and disposal of plastic and paper bags amounts to as much as 17 cents per bag. Each year, San Francisco estimates it spends $8.5 million in plastic bag clean up. States, cities, and counties together spend $1.3 billion on general litter abatement. These are taxpayer dollars used to subsidize the cost of waste.
Much of this money could otherwise be redirected to pay for much needed public services such as parks, libraries, and public safety.
According to the presentation given at the meeting, "Retailers spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to provide single-use bags to customers. For example, supermarkets can spend up to $1,500 to $6,000 a month just to provide single-use bags to their customers at the check-out. Even major retailers such as Target and CVS are realizing this significant cost burden and are offering discount incentives to customers who bring their own bags. Stores typically pay 2 to 5 cents per plastic bag; these costs are embedded in food prices which are then passed onto consumers. Paper bags are not a good alternative to plastic single-use bags because like disposable plastic bags they come with their own costs to the environment. Although some paper bags contain no old-growth fiber, contain some post-consumer recycled content and are recyclable, the production of most paper bags contributes to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and additional waterborne wastes. Stores typically pay more for paper bags than plastic, anywhere from 5 to 23 cents per bag; these costs are then embedded in the food prices which are eventually passed on to consumers."
According to the Surfrider Foundation, in the US Currently 133 cities and counties have a bag regulation ordinance in place. Around the world 29 countries have plastic bag legislation. In NC the outer banks has had a successful plastic bag ordinance in place for 5 years.
In Washington D.C., Anacostia River Clean Up Act passed in June of 2009 - effective January 2010, for a 5 cent fee on all single use bags.
Affected establishments issued about 3.3 million bags in January 2010, which was a significant 86 percent decrease from the estimated 22.5 million bags issued per month in 2009.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation reports that since implementation of the bag fee there has been a reduction in plastic bag litter by 66% in river cleanups.
Safeway grocery stores donated 10,000 bags to low-income families when the bill went into effect.
Coalition of 30 environmental groups, with dozens of grocery stores and businesses were involved. In only three weeks of the five-cent fee, demand for bags at grocery stores dropped 50-60 percent.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation reports that since implementation of the bag fee there has been a reduction in plastic bag litter by 66% in river cleanups.
Crouch asked the Town Council to create a committee to develop a plastic bag reduction ordinance and enact the ordinance to reduce single use plastic bags in Carolina Beach. Also, to support their efforts with the New Hanover County Commissioners to pass legislation on plastic and paper bags similar to programs created in Washington DC, Portland OR, Seattle WA, San Francisco CA, Los Angeles CA.
Crouch said he would be willing to serve on the committee.
Crouch said, "An outright ban on plastic is going to reduce the amount of plastic most comprehensively" and while paper bags are not the best choice, many merchants are beginning to sell reusable bags including Food Lion in Carolina Beach.
He said many people respond positively to outreach programs at local events and festivals but typically don't move on to the next step of using reusable bags. He said, "That's why we advocate for legislative policy changes to help people move down that path."
Mayor Dan Wilcox said he received an email from the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association that said a ban in Nags Head, NC had not changed behavior regarding use of plastic bags.
Wilcox said his personal preference is for a volunteer program and, "Until we've exhausted that possibility I'm always a little weary to go create new laws and such."
Town Attorney Noel Fox explained the Outer Banks of North Carolina has a ban on the use of plastic bags that was enacted in 2009 by permission of the North Carolina  General Assembly. She said the law only applies to, "A barrier island that has a permanent habitation of 200 or more residents, that is separated by the NC mainland by a sound and contains a National Wildlife Refuge or a portion of a National Seashore."
She said the Town would need to obtain special legislation giving them permission.
Council member Sarah Friede questioned if the Town could still adopt an ordinance placing a fee on the use of plastic bags.
Fox said, "I don't think you can do that without enabling legislation. I'm not aware of any Town in North Carolina that has done that." She said it may be done in other states, but not in North Carolina.
Friede questioned if plastic bags would fall under laws allowing the Town to control litter.
Fox said she did not think that was the case.
Councilman Gary Doestch said the Council could establish a committee to research obtaining legislation permitting such a ban as well as other ways of educating the public on using reusable bags rather than plastic. The Council voted unanimously to establish a committee of seven people and each Council member would give a list of goals to the Town Manager and meet with the committee at a later date to go over those items.


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