NC Retail Merchants Supports Repeal of Plastic Bag Ban


Raleigh, NC (March 9, 2017) – The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA)

(, commends Representative Beverly Boswell (R-Dare), Representative John Bell (RWayne)

and Representative John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) for sponsoring HB 271 to repeal the ban of plastic

bags on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks which will provide relief for retailers large and small.


NCRMA President Andy Ellen touted the introduction of the bill, “The General Assembly has taken steps the

last few years to remove red tape and regulations from businesses that have no benefits and I can think of no

issue that creates as little benefit with as great a cost as the ban on plastic bags on the Outer Banks.”


In September 2009, the plastic bag ban went into effect for larger retailers on the barrier islands of the Outer

Banks and was expanded to small businesses the following year. The ban prohibited businesses on the barrier

islands of the Outer Banks from providing plastic shopping bags and forced them to provide a costlier paper bag

comprised of at least 40% recycled material. In addition, businesses are required to give a credit, generally five

cents per bag, to any customers who bring reusable bags to their store. This ban amounts to a tax on businesses

and consumers and is also difficult for businesses to manage.


Over the last seven years, impacted retailers, have been financially burdened to meet the requirements of the

law. Some stores spent as much as $40,000 to implement software to track and manage the reusable bag credit.

Other retailers have seen significant operational cost increases upwards of $50,000 annually at a single store

location simply because of the paper bag cost over plastic. Paper bags cost retailers, on average, 50% more than

plastic bags.


After the first two years of the ban, according to a NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

(DENR) study, more plastic bags were recovered in fewer miles of beach – with fewer volunteers collecting

them – than in 2008, before the bag ban was in effect. Recent industry statistics support the same conclusion

evidenced by the DENR study. Neither the ban nor the refund have been effective in changing consumer

behavior. Industry data also shows that while reusable bag sales in both dollars and units increased in 2015 as

compared to 2014, sales and units among the impacted stores on the Outer Banks were down over the same

period. That differential is present despite an aggressive program to promote reusable bags to shoppers

including the costly refund meant to encourage their use.


“One of the most frustrating things business owners face are unnecessary laws passed for one specific purpose

and one specific area, which restrict retail operations, and then the law does not achieve what it was passed to

do,” said NCRMA President and General Counsel Andy Ellen. “The plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks has

been financially crippling for many of our retail members yet, as evidenced by state and industry statistics,

consumers have not adopted the reusable shopping bags as part of their practice, and meanwhile, plastic bags

continue to be recovered in these areas at pre-ban rates.”


Based on a quick scan of business locations in the Outer Banks, at least 130 businesses have been impacted by

this ban. The application of this ban costs these businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in the

increased expense of providing compliant paper bags and the mandated refunds for reusable bag use. The

millions of dollars spent by these businesses over the life of this ban could have been used to hire additional

employees, invest in their businesses or invest in their communities.

NCRMA supports the passage of HB 271 to remove this costly regulatory burden.

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