their August 20 meeting, the Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC)
voted by a narrow 4-3 margin against a resolution that would have
encouraged the North Carolina General Assembly to examine a statewide
ban on plastic straws by the year 2020.
The proposed measure stemmed from a resolution by
the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church Youth,
which brought up the topic at their annual conference in Fayetteville,
“During the conference this year, the [UMC] Youth
discussed some current events in daily legislative affairs, and they
forwarded me a copy of a resolution that they adopted at their
conference calling for a statewide ban on non-biodegradable plastic
straws,” said Commissioner Chairman Woodard.
“As a request, they asked if we would consider a
similar resolution that we would send to our legislators… The County
Clerk prepared a resolution for us, and it pretty much mirrored their
resolution,” he said, noting that the BOC would only be asking the
North Carolina General Assembly to call for a statewide ban on the
plastic straws, and to adopt appropriate legislation.
The resolution, which was read to the BOC by
County Manager Bobby Outten, stated that because Americans use 500
million plastic straws per day, and because plastic straws are not
recyclable and instead degrade into smaller micro-plastics per the
Washington Post, plastic straws should be banned in the state of North
Carolina. The resolution also noted that plastic had been found in the
stomachs of roughly 71% of sea birds and 30% of sea turtles, and that
other communities and states including New York City, Hawaii, New
Jersey, and California had already begun the process of banning plastic
Vice Chairman Wally Overman pointed out that
voting for the resolution would be in line with what the BOC had
supported in the past when it came to the subject of plastics. “This
board, in the past several months, supported the plastic bag ban that
we had in Dare County… Voting against this resolution would be somewhat
contrary to [what] we did previously,” he said.
Overman also praised the youth organization for
their activism and efforts – a sentiment that was echoed by the other
“In a few short years, my generation is going to
be out of the way, and it’s going to be up to these kids to run the
world,” said Commissioner Danny Couch. “And if this is what it takes to
start the conversation, no matter where it leads, I’m all for it,”
However, several commissioners voiced concerns
that banning plastic straws would not put much of a dent in a global
problem, and that more research was required before tackling the topic.
“I’m generally opposed to pollution in all its
many forms. I did, however, take a moment to do some research and do
the math… and found that there are approximately nine million tons of
plastic in the oceans each year, which is astronomical,” said
Commissioner Rob Ross. “Of that nine million, two thousand tons were
attributed in the study to straws - plastic and otherwise… [That]
amounts to .02 percent of the total.”
“Are we putting enormous emphasis or focus on
something that, even if it was completely successful, would have a
miniscule effect on the problem?” asked Commissioner Ross.
Ross did note that, on the whole, he was not
opposed to a potential ban, but that he did want to see a little more
research on the topic.
“I personally feel that it’s a litter problem,
and not a straw problem,” said Commissioner Steve House. “I truly
support using less single-use plastics, but I don’t think a formal ban
on the subject is the way to go about it. I think it’s more of a public
effort to be mindful of the waste that you are using, and to be
proactive in your own mind to stop using [plastic straws.]”
Commissioner House also noted that plastic straws
could potentially be recycled, citing an example of an Australian
company that engaged in the practice by transforming straws into other
materials. He also voiced concern that a request to the General
Assembly would ultimately be successful.
“I don’t think they have the support in Raleigh to place a ban on plastic straws,” said Commissioner House.
Chairman Bob Woodard, Vice Chairman Wally
Overman, and Hatteras Island Commissioner Danny Couch voted Yes on the
proposed resolution, with Rob Ross, Jack Shea, Jim Tobin and Steve
House casting the majority No votes.