Durham County

It's polluting waters and filling landfills. Now some groups say ban it in NC

Every year,  volunteers clean thousands of pieces of single-use plastic out of Ellerbe Creek in Durham.
Every year, volunteers clean thousands of pieces of single-use plastic out of Ellerbe Creek in Durham. courtesy of Ian Pond

Community and environmental groups gathered near Durham's Ellerbe Creek on Wednesday to launch a statewide campaign to ban Styrofoam.

Speakers from Don’t Waste Durham, Every Tray Counts and Compost Now announced plans to knock on 30,000 door across the state to help support the campaign by Environment North Carolina. They have collected 4,000 petition signatures in support of the ban so far.

Americans throw out 70 million cups made of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, every day, they said in a news release, and that doesn’t include bowls and takeout containers. Roughly a third of that plastic ends up in rivers, lakes and oceans.

“We are not only polluting our oceans, we are polluting the Eno River, the Neuse River the Cape Fear and many other important local water resources.” said Drew Ball, director of Environment North Carolina.

The problem affects more than waters. “Polystyrene foam is a material we use once for our food and drink,” said Crystal Dreisbach the executive director of Don’t Waste Durham. “Many cities' trash is trucked to lower-income counties where landfills are filling up fast.”

Durham’s trash has been trucked 97 miles away to Sampson County, increasing taxpayers' costs, since Durham’s landfill closed, according to the group.

Everyday Tray Counts has worked with Durham schools to replace polystyrene trays with compostable trays. Don’t Waste Durham is working with restaurants to promote returnable takeout containers and running a sustainable food truck certification program that recognizes and promotes food trucks that commit to low-waste sustainable programs.

A polystyrene ban, however, could economically impact restaurants, the packaging industry, and even school districts. Consumers could also be denied everyday conveniences.

"We do expect some challenges within the state legislature but we also see opportunities to support our champions in the legislature and find new allies who are ready to start tackling our single-use plastic waste problems," Ball said.

Last year, the General Assembly repealed a ban on single-use plastic bags along the Outer Banks it had approved in 2010 with support from many groups including the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.

"It flies in the face of the progress we've seen around the country," Ball said. "Over 200 states and local governments have instituted bans of some sort on single-use plastics. The tides are turning and people are getting serious about this issue."


Antony Nganga: @kkaris
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