City leaders are considering a fee or ban on plastic bags in the Raleigh area in order to reduce litter and landfill waste. City Councilman Bonner Gaylord prompted the discussion among city staff, proposing a 5 to 10-cents fee per plastic bag used. “I don’t have a position on the matter – I don’t know enough right now,” he said. “I’m curious to see what other communities have done and how it’s benefitted them or hurt them.”
Environmentalists are encouraging the idea. “Plastic bags are a nuisance in every neighborhood in Raleigh,” Environmental Advisory Board member Norman Camp said during a committee meeting last month. “Particularly in walkable neighborhoods. I pick them up every day and clean them out of the Walnut Creek wetlands.”
The bags are not accepted plastics for Raleigh’s curbside recycling program, either.
Many cities around the U.S. have already banned plastic bags. As an alternative, grocers have switched to paper bags and asked customers to bring their own reusable bags. Around the Triangle, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, and Aldi already use alternatives for bagging.
Some business owners disagree with the possible transition, however. Mike Harris of Larry’s Super Market says a 10-cent fee would cost more than the plastic bag itself. “There’s no way any grocery store could absorb that kind of increase,” he said.
Gaylord said the city council will look closely at the impact on businesses before making any decisions. He also wants to be sure that the fees collected go toward streams or litter programs, so “there’s a natural connection between the reasoning for the fee and the ways the revenue is used.”