It's not often that a Republican votes against an environmental protection bill because it isn't wide-reaching enough. But that's what happened in the N.C. House earlier this month, when Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover, voted against a bill that bans most stores from using plastic shopping bags in areas of the northern Outer Banks.
"I think it should be up and down the whole coast," McComas was quoted as saying in the Wilmington Star News.
The counties affected are those that contain a barrier island or a barrier island peninsula: Dare, Currituck and Hyde.
Senate Bill 1018 was sponsored by Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. The House version, which is identical, was co-sponsored by Reps. Grier Martin, D-Wake, and Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. Gov. Beverly Perdue signed it into law June 24. It goes into effect Sept. 1.
Plastic bags harm the environment. They don't degrade easily, can threaten wildlife and pollute beaches and waterways. Sea turtles nest along portions of the Outer Banks, and the bags can damage their habitats.
Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and their manufacture requires 60 million to 100 million barrels of oil.
As recently as this month, Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), called for plastic bags to be phased out. In the United States, San Francisco was the first municipality to ban plastic bags.