We use plastic bags for minutes, yet they persist in our environment for hundreds of years. The average person uses 360 single-use plastic bags every year which is over 38 million bags in Wilmington alone.
Despite efforts to expand recycling programs, less than 5% of single-use plastic bags are currently being recycled nationwide. The rest of these bags inevitably end up in our landfill or as litter, clogging storm drain systems, and making their way to the Cape Fear River and ocean. Plastic bags entangle or are ingested by sea turtles and shore birds, as well as break down into small bits that persist in the ecosystem and may move through the food chain if ingested by fish.
Bans on single use plastic bags are not a new approach to reducing plastic pollution. San Francisco was the first big city to ban plastic bags in 2007 and there are now 33 plastic checkout bag ordinances covering 53 jurisdictions in California. Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Austin, TX along with towns in Alaska, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and all four counties in Hawaii have banned plastic bags as well and our very own Outer Banks. Additionally Washington D.C., Ireland and the United Kingdom have added small fees on plastic bag use. These policies have reduced the use of plastic bags and consequently the use of petroleum and natural gas, space in landfills, and the negative impacts of plastic bag litter, all without affecting the economy.
Passing an ordinance regulating the use of plastic bags in New Hanover County will be a major step in aesthetically improving our community while reducing the expense of plastic bag disposal. Furthermore, the regulation of plastic bag use would promote New Hanover County’s reputation as clean and green coastal community.
There is a mandatory warning on plastic bags that begins with “To avoid danger of suffocation…”. We do a good job of protecting our children from that danger but we need to do more for the environment and wildlife.
Please take an active step in improving our community by signing this Action Alert.