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Kill Devil Hills commission battles butts and bags

Discussion at the May 24 Kill Devil Hills Community Appearance Commission meeting took a slight turn midway through the meeting.

After several minutes of conversation focused on ways to discourage tossing cigarette butts on the ground and eliminating the use of plastic bags, member David Rollins pointed out that the group was not really talking about a ban, it was more about encouraging positive behavior.

Working on two separate but similar campaigns at the same time, commission members are working toward reducing the number of cigarette butts being discarded as litter, and encouraging businesses to offer paper bags over plastic.

Although a sub-committee had been established to work on cleaning up cigarette butts, commission members had a few ideas that might help them move toward their goal.

“I think we need to move forward with an education campaign,” offered chair Sue Kelly. “We need to let people know how toxic much of the material cigarettes contain.”

Commission members agreed that a behavior change is needed after Mayor Pro Tem Mike Hogan, sitting in on the meeting, commented on observing people at ballgames smoking outside the fence and tossing their cigarette butts on ground and into the street.

That led to a brief discussion on how other places prohibit all smoking on the beach.

“That’s extreme,” said Melinda Mogowski, “but it’s extreme actions that bring issues to the public attention.”

The group agreed that while there might be a lot of negative blow-back, and enforcement would be an issue, it may still be something to talk about.

A more likely action would be generating a simple slogan similar to the National Park Service “Leave No Trace” program  encouraging visitors to take only pictures, leave only footprints, and kill only time.

“It’s simple and to the point,” offered one member.

Rollins pointed out that while there is plenty of data available to use the challenge is to make it pertinent to Kill Devil Hills.

As the discussion continued, it was agreed that a sign might have better success than a flier given that a brochure has the potential for being more litter.

As the focus turned to plastic bags, a draft letter aimed at enlisting merchant support for using paper over plastic bags points out that plastic bags are frequently found along roadways and in wetlands and waterways.

“A letter is a good start,” said commissioner representative John Windley. “It’s better to deliver it than mail it. And I would start with those friendly to the cause and get names for a list of supporters to ask others to join in.”

In discussion the letter and possible improvements Mogowski said she has a list of all town commissioner resolutions.

Windley then added that the letter needs to say that over time plastic bags deteriorate and disintegrate, breaking up into a lot of pieces that are almost impossible to pick up.

Rollins also produced a sheet of half a dozen logo designs, providing copies to the commission members, that encourage paper bag use.

The draft letter with one of the logos will go to town commissioners for approval before being taken out into the public.

Other business topics discussed during the meeting included adding more people to the commission and potential use of a beach sweeper to groom the beach. Additional research on each is under way.

Windley also advised that a social media site is being set up to help promote the group’s message.

The next Community Appearance Commission meeting is at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 28, in the Administration Building Meeting Room at 102 Town Hall Drive and is open to the public. 

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