Plastic Bag Committee Collecting Survey Data; Wants Public Input

Plastic Bag Committee Collecting Survey Data; Wants Public Input Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 25 March 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Plastic Bag Committee continues seeking input from residents and business owners about the use of single-use plastic bags. The Town posted a survey on their website at www.carolinabeach.org in January seeking input from citizens and business owners on the use of plastic bags in the community verses other more environmentally friendly options.
To date the survey has generated 461 responses from citizens and 11 responses from business owners.
The committee met on March 23rd, and decided the survey will conclude on April 4th for citizens and April 30th, for businesses.
The Town created the committee last year 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 was also sent out in monthly utility bills to Carolina Beach residents and business owners. 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. 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.
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.
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."
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.

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