UNC Fraternity Proposes Local Bag Tax

By Kristin Ruffin Posted November 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Chapel Hill – Everyone wants to kick bad habits, and a group of UNC students wants to help Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents kick one of theirs with a grocery bag tax.

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Have you ever had a bad habit you knew was an easy fix, if you just put forth a little effort? UNC student Ty Fenton did. He says this habit is so easy to break, he’s asking all of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to join him.

“This didn’t at all come from looking down and seeing problems with other people,” Fenton says.

“Right now in my house, I have a huge collection of plastic bags under my sink. I’m a member of the environmental fraternity, I’m an environmental science major. I should not have a collection of plastic bags under my sink.”

Fenton is a brother of UNC’s chapter of the environmental honors fraternity, Epsilon Eta. He and his brothers wrote a letter to the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Alderman. They proposed a “bag tax” – a charge customers will pay per plastic or paper bag at grocery stores.

He hopes the tax will raise awareness of waste management.

“It’s all about reducing waste,” says Fenton, “Paper and plastic bags are a large source of waste in our community.”

Fenton says the tax could motivate consumers to carry reusable grocery bags with them to the store. He says the switch to environmentally friendly bags is easy and painless.

“It’s so small that if someone does really want to use paper and plastic every time they go to the store, the cost is 5 cents per bag,” Fenton says, “You’re not going to lose your house.”

That’s part of what the fraternity proposed to the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Town Councils – a 5 cent tax, to act as a reminder for customers to consider other options.

Fenton says customers who choose to pay for paper and plastic will spend an average of an additional three dollars per month. He says purchasing a reusable bag will end up saving customers money in the long run.

The fraternity proposed part of the tax to go back to the business as profit, and the rest of it for the town to use any way they choose.

“It’s kind of a win-win for everyone involved, which I think is a really important part of the tax,” Fenton says, “It doesn’t make sense without that tax structure.”

Fenton and his fraternity hope to meet with both town councils at the beginning of 2014.

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