Each single-use bag could potentially become 10 cents in Durham

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City and County Durham officials will investigate issues with imposing a proposed 10-cent levy on plastic grocery and retail bags.

City and County Durham officials will investigate issues with imposing a proposed 10-cent levy on plastic grocery and retail bags.

PA

Paper or plastic?

Some people no longer want Durham grocery stores and retailers to use one or the other.

Leaders in the City and County of Durham heard a presentation Tuesday on the imposition of a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bags.

Duke University‘s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and Don’t Waste Durham, a local nonprofit, want to reduce Durham’s single-use plastic footprint and encourage residents to use more reusable bags.

“The fee always protects the consumer’s choice, but also signals to the consumer the true cost of a product – or bag – to the community and how much it costs the retailer to provide,” said Michelle Nowlin, co-director of the clinic. Duke.

Some grocery stores are already encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags. Whole Foods, which has eliminated plastic bags, is offering customers a discount for every bag they bring. Weaver Street Market, a health food cooperative with stores in Orange and Wake counties, charges customers for a reusable bag if they need it at checkout.

Waste Not Waste Durham first proposed the fee to the Durham Environmental Affairs Council in 2019, around the same time as the Hartford Courant, reported that Connecticut buyers began paying a 10-cent tax on plastic shopping bags.

After the advisory board approved the idea two years ago, Duke and Don’t Waste Durham surveyed and collected data to come up with best practices, but Nowlin said COVID-19 has delayed their efforts. Since then, the two entities have refined their proposal.

According to Nowlin, the Department of Solid Waste Management would collect the fees and determine how to assess the effectiveness of the program.

Buyers using SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, and other assistance programs would not have to pay the fees offered. If the ordinance passes, the city will provide free reusable bags and start a recirculation bag program.

The Duke Clinic found that most of the companies surveyed would accept a 10-cent fee for paper or plastic bags.

But not everyone supports the elimination of plastic bags or a “bag tax,” as some critics call the proposed fees.

In 2017, the state legislature repealed a ban on plastic bags on Outer Banks that lawmakers passed in 2009, The News & Observer reported.

The NC Retail Merchants Association wrote to The News & Observer and said its 2,500 members were concerned about bag fees.

The association says state law prohibits local governments from charging fees without legislative approval.

“Of the cities that the promoters cited as examples of charging fees or taxes on plastic bags, none are located in North Carolina, a ‘Dillon Rule’ state, but are instead located in states.” home rule, “” wrote the traders association. .

“The impact of such a levy would be detrimental to retailers – especially at a time when businesses try to get back on their feet as they continue to navigate COVID, staff their stores and deal with huge supply chain issues, ”the association wrote. .

City and county attorneys will begin legal analysis of the potential order to see if the charges can be passed in the future.

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This story was originally published October 12, 2021 4:53 pm.


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