Rep. Warren to focus on single-use plastic legislation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 20, 2019

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — State Rep. Harry Warren is already at work crafting one of his first pieces of legislation to be introduced during this year’s legislative session — a bipartisan bill focused on reducing North Carolinians’ dependance on single-use plastics.

Warren said he was inspired by a call from his daughter, Morgan, who is conscientious about social issues. She asked her father if the state could do anything to curb its single-use plastic consumption. And of interest was the fact that China would no longer accept the United States’ recycled plastics. 

Warren, a Republican who represents the 76th District, said, out of all the problems with which the state and the country are confronted, he knew lawmakers could do something about single-use plastics.

As the state House goes into session, Warren is working with Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-117, and Pricey Harrison, D-61, to bring forward a three-pronged bill to address the issue. He said the trio of legislators will likely add a fourth member to draft the legislation.

“This isn’t partisan,” Warren said. “It’s a health and environmental issue.”

Warren said the issue affects everyone regardless of party affiliation, and no longer having a Republican supermajority allows the House to have a greater opportunity to work together across the aisle.

Warren said single-use plastics is a silent problem that has been overshadowed by other issues such as immigration nationwide and gerrymandering statewide. 

Warren and his co-sponsors have been researching practices by other states and businesses to reduce plastic consumption. Through his research, Warren said, he learned some troubling information, including that plastic is starting to affect the food chain. A tremendous amount of plastic ends up in landfills and the ocean, he said.

The first items Warren hopes to address include straws, takeout containers, coffee stirrers and toothpicks, which would be replaced with compostable or biodegradable options. Warren plans to educate the public, including industry, about the effects of single-use plastics and encourage people and businesses to find alternatives. 

Warren said the bill also will focus on phasing out other products and transitioning to alternatives that are biodegradable or compostable. For example, stores that have bought plastic grocery bags can phase out those they bought in bulk and negotiate to find a sustainable option at a decent price, he said.  

Some businesses and industries have begun phasing out single-use plastics, and Warren said that trend made him question why the state wasn’t doing the same. As examples of businesses, Warren says he’s looking been at hotel chains such Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott as well as airlines that are being more conscious about the amount of plastic their business is consuming.

Warren says he hopes to create a task force of experts to find the best way to educate the public about single-use plastics.

With this legislation, Warren said North Carolinians can make an environmental impact on the individual level.