North Carolina’s War on Plastic

North Carolina’s public enemy number one: plastic. State lawmakers have embarked on a full frontal attack on plastic throughout the state ranging from banning plastic bottles in state-wide landfills to reducing plastic bags in the Outer Banks.

A new law took effect October 1, which bans plastic bottles from landfills and, therefore, from curbside pickup. Gov. Purdue signed HB 760 into law as a way to encourage recycling, reduce the amount of trash collected in state landfills and create more jobs. Ever wonder why legislators think banning something will actually encourage us to do something else?

WRAL recently reported Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Dee Freeman saying, “Recycling is a proven job creator in North Carolina and if we do our best to recycle the newly banned materials, we will not only grow businesses in the state, but also protect disposal capacity, recover valuable resources, save energy, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

While the law is part of a series of initiatives by the state to mirror the nation’s effervescent “Go Green” fad, it ignores the hard facts on the ground. Sanitation companies are affected the most by the new law, as sorting plastic from trash will largely rest on their shoulders. State environmental regulators could impose a fine of up to $15,000 on landfills for plastic violations, which could result in raising customer’s collection fees to cover the cost. All American owner William Skipper told WRAL that he has not raised collection fees yet, as the law just took effect, but if his company is fined for plastic violations, his hand will be forced. The law does exempt pesticide containers from the ban.

Combating the threat of plastic is not new to North Carolina as SB 1018, “Ban Certain Single-Use Bags,” took effect September 1. Introduced by Sen. Stein (D-Wake), the new law bans the distribution of plastic bags by retailers to consumers for use in carrying, transporting or storing purchased goods. The law is applied only to the barrier islands of Dare, Hyde and Currituck Counties on the Outer Banks. This effort is an attempt to transition our state away from plastic bags to 100 percent recycled paper.

Both laws maintain that plastic has a detrimental effect on the environment and therefore, should be regulated by the state. In hoping to better the environment, the government has again taken a huge step into our daily life. North Carolina lawmakers take away daily conveniences like plastic water bottles and plastic grocery store bags to support the latest environmental trend – which may not actually produce the desired results. Ireland, for example, reduced plastic shopping bag consumption by 90 percent country-wide but the amount of plastic in landfills has actually increased. Consumers buy heavier kitchen garbage bags instead of re-using their grocery store plastic bags and the result: more plastic.

North Carolina may have waged a war against plastic but it is really waging a war against consumer choice. State lawmakers are limiting consumer choice and dictating individual purchases by their hefty fines. North Carolina residents should fight back against such government intrusions and support real efforts to help the environment that do not limit our individual rights.

This article was posted in Environment by Jessica Anderson on October 26, 2009 at 10:21 AM.

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