Raleigh shoppers to pay for plastic bags?

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Last night a committee voted to send a memo to City Council members encouraging them to examine the possibility of a plastic bag “ban.”

“Plastic bags are a nuisance in every neighborhood in Raleigh,” Environmental Advisory Board member Norman Camp said during the meeting. “Particularly in walkable neighborhoods. I pick them up every day and clean them out of the Walnut Creek wetlands.”

The move comes after City Council member Bonner Gaylord floated a proposal that stores charge a 5 to 10-cents fee per plastic bag used, in an email to city staff last month.

The intention is to cut down on litter and landfill waste and to use the money for cleanup efforts around the city.

But Gaylord made clear in the email that he didn’t yet have a position on the proposal and is asking only to begin research into the possibility.

Since Gaylord sent his email, arguments for and against the proposal have surfaced quickly.

Opponents say the move would be too much of a hardship on small business owners and customers.

“People have problems when an extra 25 cents is tacked onto their grocery bills,” Board chair Mickey Fanney said, though he was in favor of encouraging City Council to look into the idea.

Many mid-sized U.S. cities completely ban, or charge a fee to use, plastic bags. These include Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Portland.

And many stores, including ALDI, Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, do not use plastic bags as a matter of company policy.

“It would be nice if the City did some research through its staff or through a volunteer board and asked for some information,” said Board member Larry Larson. “We want to be a leading edge city and this is an important topic.”

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