Take Action: Support A Ban On Single-Use Plastic Bags in Buncombe County

Plastic pollution is a global problem, and we must act locally to do our part. That’s why the Creation Care Alliance is advocating in Buncombe County for a ban on single-use plastic bags and styrofoam at grocery and retail store checkout counters paired with a 10-cent fee on paper bags.

  • Let your elected leaders know you support a Plastic Reduction Ordinance that would: 
  • Ban the use of plastic shopping bags and styrofoam cups by fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and retailers.
  • Charges a 10¢ fee for recyclable paper bags (made from 40% post-consumer waste) that is collected by the business.
  • Exempts customers using EBT, SNAP, and WIC from paying the 10¢ fee.
  • Encourage businesses to provide plastic straws by request only.

Sign-on Petition Letter

To: the elected leaders of western North Carolina

Plastic pollution is a threat to North Carolina’s environment and to human health. I urge you to adopt new policies and programs mandated by the North Carolina Solid Waste Management Act to reduce plastic waste and stop its introduction into our environment.

Plastic bags, styrofoam cups, and other single-use plastics litter our forests and trails and clog up our rivers and streams. These plastics don’t biodegrade. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces over hundreds or even thousands of years. These “microplastic” films, fibers, and fragments are consumed by aquatic animals and bio-accumulate up the food chain. Over time, they become so small that they can travel by wind. According to a study published by the World Wildlife Federation, plastics are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat — we ingest approximately one credit card-worth of plastic every week.

These plastics and the additives used to make them leach into our food and environment, and can be harmful to human health. Phthalates — which make plastics soft and pliable and are used in food packaging — are known endocrine disruptors, have been linked to higher rates of childhood asthma, and are potentially harmful to the reproductive and nervous systems.

Styrene — the main ingredient in styrofoam cups — is classified by WHO, NIH, and National Research Council as a “likely” or “probable” human carcinogen.

MountainTrue, a regional conservation organization, conducts water sampling in rivers and streams throughout western North Carolina to assess the prevalence and likely sources of the plastics polluting our rivers and streams. So far, they’ve found plastics in every body of water they’ve tested. In the French Broad River, MountainTrue found an average of 15.5 pieces of microplastic per 1-liter sample of water, with nearly 40% of that being plastic films derived from plastic bags, candy wrappers, and food packaging. In the Watauga River, they’ve documented 11 microplastics per liter.

The North Carolina Solid Waste Management Act doesn’t just give local governments the authority to act. Because the presence of a pollutant that is harmful to both human health and the environment has been documented in our region, the law mandates that local governments must act.

I urge you to join the more than 400 local governments across the country that have already passed plastic reduction laws. Act now to reduce plastics pollution before it enters our environment.


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Facts About Our Ban on Single-Use Plastics

Microplastics are a dangerous emerging contaminant.
Plastics don’t biodegrade; they break down into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic that stay in our environment for thousands of years.

These microscopic pieces of plastic waste are everywhere.
We all breathe/consume approximately one credit card’s worth of microplastics every week. Microplastics have been found in the human placenta and breast milk.

Plastic production generates as much CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) gas as 116 coal-fired power plants.
As of 2020, the US plastics industry was responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year, which is the equivalent of 116 average-sized (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants (Beyond Plastics: The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change, 2021).

Plastic production is ramping up and much of it is for the purpose of creating wasteful, single-use plastics. 
42% of plastic production is for single-use packaging (Science Advances: Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastic Ever Made, 2017). Half of all plastics created were produced in the last 15 years (NRDC: Single-Use Plastic 101, 2020).

Plastic films account for 40% of the microplastics found in the French Broad River.
MountainTrue has conducted widespread microplastic sampling throughout the French Broad Watershed. On average, we’ve found 15.5 pieces of microplastic per 1-liter sample of water, with some samples as high as 40 or 50 pieces per liter. The most common type of microplastics in the French Broad River is films (39.5%), the sources of which are plastic bags, food packaging, and candy wrappers.

Plastics are harmful to human health.
Plastics contain 7% chemical additives on average. Researchers suspect these chemicals contribute to reproductive health problems and declining sperm counts in Western countries. Phthalates, used to enhance the durability of plastic products, are found in personal care products, food packaging, children’s toys, shower curtains, and more. These chemical additives disrupt the endocrine system and harm the reproductive and nervous systems.

Styrofoam contains a likely carcinogen that leaches into food, drinks, and water supplies.
Styrene is used to make styrofoam cups, food containers, and disposable coolers, and leaches into the food and drinks they hold and from landfills into drinking water. It’s classified as a likely human carcinogen that causes liver, kidney, and circulatory problems.

A ban on single-use plastic bags in Buncombe County would have significant environmental benefits.
A ban on single-use plastic bags paired with a 10-cent fee on paper bags would reduce Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 43%, fossil fuel consumption by 86%, solid waste by 66%, greenhouse gas emissions by 83%, fresh water consumption by 32%, and energy use by 73.3% compared to plastic. Read more about the environmental benefits of our proposed ordinance here.

Our plastic bag ban would not be overly burdensome for people with lower incomes.
Our proposed ordinance would exempt customers using EBT, SNAP, and WIC from paying the 10-cent fee on paper bags. Even without that exception, the average cost to Buncombe County consumers would only be $3.33 per year, and customers can reduce or eliminate those costs by bringing reusable bags to the store.

Buncombe County has the legal authority to pass a plastic bag ban under the North Carolina Solid Waste Management Act.
The NC Solid Waste Management Act asserts that it’s North Carolina’s policy to prioritize waste reduction at the source and mandates that towns, cities, and counties implement programs and other actions to address deficiencies and “protect human health and the environment.” Because the presence of a pollutant that is harmful to human health and the environment has been documented in our region, the law mandates that local governments act.

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