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Rep. Warren introduces bill to decrease single-use plastics

SALISBURY — One of his goals coming into the current N.C. legislative session, Rep. Harry Warren has introduced a bill to lower the state’s dependance on single-use plastics.

The N.C. Managing Environmental Waste Act of 2019, or House Bill 823, has four sections to tackle single-use plastics, including increasing revenue distributed to municipalities; establishing a program at state-operated food service facilities; and directing the Environmental Review Commission to study single-use plastics. It was introduced on April 16, passed through the Committee on Environment Tuesday and is awaiting further consideration in the Finance Committee.

The bill proposes incentivizing cities and counties to provide plastic recycling services. The bill would reallocate 5 percent of the revenue generated from the solid waste disposal tax to pay for such services. 

Warren said that would offset the costs cities and counties face with recycling programs.

Recycling costs have gone up since China stopped accepting plastic waste from other countries. At the Salisbury City Council retreat in February, Craig Powers, assistant director of public services, said it costs the city three times as much to get rid of recyclables than to trash them.

Warren said he hopes another section of the bill will encourage competition in the market so the cost doesn’t all fall on consumers. The Department of Administration will be tasked to eliminate food or beverages in single-use plastics at five food service establishments operated by state agencies.

The four primary sponsors of the bill looked at the practices of various companies to reduce single-use plastics. Warren said throughout the studies, he realized many of the changes to decrease waste came from their competitors.

One example is Food Lion, which is headquartered in Salisbury. Harris Teeter, based in Matthews, announced last year it would make the transition to reusable bags in all its stores by 2025.

According to Emma Inman, a spokesperson for Food Lion, the company has relaunched its reusable bag program to allow for a larger presence in its stores.

Food Lion, along with parent company Ahold Delhaize, also signed on to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment last year, a pledge to help eradicate plastic waste and pollution. The company has a goal that by 2025, all plastic packaging should reused, recycled or composted.

Passing the bill would restore reporting requirements, which were repealed in 2009 and 2010, that show the amount of recycled content purchased and materials collected for recycling.

Additionally, the bill would require the Environmental Review Commission to study theh single-use plastics issue. The panel will meet with representatives of the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Administration as well as representatives of the environmental community, the N.C. Retail Merchants Association and the N.C. Beverage Association.

The commission would present its finding at the regular session of the General Assembly in 2020.

Warren is joined by primary sponsors Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-117; Pricey Harrison, D-61; and Holly Grange, R-20. The bill has picked up additional sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Warren said the bill is a health and environmental issue, not a political one.

“We all live on the same planet,” Warren said.

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