DURHAM, N.C. — If you shop in Durham, you may soon have to pay for plastic shopping bags. This comes as officials decide if they want to charge 10 cents for single-use plastic bags.


What You Need To Know

The city of Durham and Durham County are considering a 10-cent fee for plastic shopping bags

The fee was proposed by Don’t Waste Durham and the Duke Law Clinic

The proposal references litter, waste and health inequity

If approved, Durham would be the first community in the state to have this kind of fee


The nonprofit Don’t Waste Durham has been working with the Duke Law Clinic for a few years, and they presented a proposal on a 10-cent plastic bag fee during Durham’s Joint City County Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Crystal Dreisbach, the founder and executive director of Don’t Waste Durham, hopes reusable grocery bags become a more common sight in Durham.

“I think waste is so preventable and unnecessary. It just goes against every way my brain works,” Dreisbach said.

She’s constantly making more eco-friendly decisions in her own life, like using sponges made from plants.

“What happens is all of that adds up to a lot of consumers making a different choice, and that is the kind of things that can change industry,” Dreisbach said.

She says recycling is a great place to start, but the market for recycled material isn’t profitable, and things often end up in landfills anyway.

“Recycling is an awesome concept. If and when it works, it is actually a good thing to do. It’s sustainable. But it is far from the solution to the problem,” Dreisbach said.

She says it’s the small changes that actually add up, like switching from plastic to-go containers to glass ones.

“Let’s not feel overwhelmed by the global climate change issues. Let’s use that fear and anxiety and really channel it to things we can do at home,” Dreisbach said.

She hopes these more sustainable choices create a brighter future for her sons.

“Anything I can do to leave them with a world that’s better, I know that sounds cliche, but I want to put the values I have into action,” Dreisbach said.


The decision on if the fee goes into effect now comes down to the county and city attorneys. According to Duke’s survey of businesses, about 80% of business owners in Durham County support a bag fee.

“It makes sense. A lot of those business owners live here in Durham. They live here in the community, and they see the toll that plastic waste takes on the environment and on the community. It also costs them money to be able to provide those materials free of charge to the consumer,” said Michelle Nowlin, clinical professor of law and co-director of the Environmental Law & Policy Clinic at the Duke University School of Law.

The proposal also includes equity recommendations such as making SNAP, WIC, Medicaid and other assistance programs exempt from the fee.

Nowlin says if the fee is adopted, Durham would be the first community to implement this type of fee in North Carolina. The discussion about the 10-cent fee will likely continue for a few more months before a decision is made.