The nonprofit behind the 2012 Wrightsville Beach smoking ban has set its sight on a new target: plastic bags.
“Millions of tons of plastics are produced every year but only 5 percent is recycled. Do the math. That is why we get so much debris that will never biodegrade,” said Ethan Crouch, Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation chair, during a March 20 phone interview.
Crouch said the campaign against plastic bags launched years ago but was pushed to the back burner when the organization switched tactics to concentrate on the smoking ban.
Both efforts are part of a larger initiative led by the national Surfrider Foundation, Rise Against Plastics, a plan to reduce, reuse and refuse single-use plastics.
“Cigarette butts are a single-use plastic. Filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic product,” Crouch said.
The Surfrider Foundation Cape Fear chapter is ready to refocus on plastic bags after the smoking ban passed in a November 2012 referendum.
The organization plans to implement groundwork laid in 2011 and 2012, including resolutions of support from Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville beaches and the University of North Carolina Wilmington student government.
“The key economic engines in our community have all agreed this is what they want. Now we’re reaching out to businesses and citizens in the community to gain support and move our work into the City of Wilmington and the New Hanover County government,” Crouch said.
With enough support, Crouch said he hopes an ad-hoc committee could research and recommend policies to county commissioners.
“Whether it is a ban or fee, communities around the world are handling this problem in different ways. We can find what’s best for us,” Crouch said.
Woody White, New Hanover County Commission chairman, said on March 24 he could not predict how the board would respond to the request, adding he would need to hear county manager Chris Coudriet’s recommendation.
“That’s something that may need to come from Raleigh,” White said.
Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens agreed.
“A resolution doesn’t really have any power. You need a state law. Even a local ordinance probably doesn’t have the authority,” Owens said during a March 24 phone interview.
Owens noted the route Dare County took when banning plastic bags on the Outer Banks.
“It would be a state law with a local ordinance to enforce it,” Owens said.
Crouch said other municipalities across the country have enacted binding ordinances, but pledged to work with the state legislature if necessary.
“We are in this for the long haul. Change takes continuous pressure endlessly applied. We’re willing to work as long as it takes to make this change happen,” Crouch said.