A years-long push to curb the use of plastic bags in New Hanover County marked a milestone Aug. 12 when the Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously agreed to form a committee to investigate the local impact of plastics bags.
The Cape Fear chapter of the Surfrider Foundation secured resolutions of support for its campaign to reduce single-use plastics from Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches in 2011. Ethan Crouch, chair of the Cape Fear chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, commended Carolina Beach for moving beyond a theoretical pledge of support to investigate options to enact change.
“It’s important that each community takes time and digs into all those options and takes input from all the stakeholders, and then crafts what’s the best thing for their individual community. That’s what Carolina Beach wants to do … and I think that’s a huge win for the town,” Crouch said during an Aug. 14 phone interview.
The decision in Carolina Beach followed a presentation by Crouch, who spoke at the invitation of the board. Crouch said he recognized support among council members and in the community to reduce plastic bag use, citing efforts by local businesses and organizations to make reusable bags more convenient.
“We always work for what we call a tipping point. We’re out there beating the drum, and other organizations are getting on board and more and more people are learning about it,” Crouch said.
Crouch cited a program that distributes free reusable bags at Roberts Market as one indication of support in Wrightsville Beach.
Montgomery Carter of Totes Totes donates a reusable bag to Roberts for every bag he sells at Surf City Surf Shop, Planet and Urban Revival.
“So far, what I’ve been able to do is raise money to support this cause, which is to directly eliminate plastic bags,” Carter said during an Aug. 19 interview.
Carter started the program in January. He buys T-shirts from local thrift stores and sews them together to create a bag capable of holding up to 30 pounds. He said he was motivated to start the program because he wanted to see change.
“I was absolutely sick of not doing anything about plastic bags, so I decided to do something,” Carter said. “If I couldn’t be a rally man, a person to really bring people together, I was going to do something first-hand. Out of that came Totes Totes.”
Crouch said Surfrider will focus on Carolina Beach as the plastic bag committee collects information to submit to the town council, but he would come to Wrightsville Beach if the board of aldermen extended a request.
Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said he did not foresee the board extending a request. He questioned whether considering such a policy would require support in Raleigh.
“I can’t speak for our board but they might be hesitant to really get involved in that,” Owens said during an Aug. 18 phone interview. “I’m not sure that’s the place of a local government, at this point, to ban plastic bags or water bottles or any of that type of stuff. I think that’s a bigger, broader issue.”
Owens also suggested it might be hard to implement in a community with a transient population.
“If I’m living here, I know I’m going to have to take two canvas bags to Harris Teeter. But if you’re coming in from wherever you’re coming in from, you’re not going to know to do that. If you’re not quite as transient, it might be a little easier,” Owens said.
Carolina Beach is currently accepting applications for seven citizens, preferably from diverse backgrounds, to serve on the ad hoc plastic bag committee.