Commentary, Environment

Environmental advocates: We’ve had it up to here (literally) with polluting polystyrene

In case you missed it earlier this week amidst all the hubbub at the General Assembly, the good people at the advocacy group Environment North Carolina launched an important new anti-pollution campaign against one of the most ubiquitous and destructive byproducts of our modern, supersized, fast food-obsessed lives. This is from the announcement that accompanied the group’s Wednesday press event near a polluted Durham creek:

Some of the plastic waste recently cleaned from Durham’s Ellerbee Creek

Environment North Carolina’s New Campaign: Wildlife Over Waste
The Campaign Aims to Bolster Local Efforts and Ban Harmful Plastic Pollution, Starting With Polystyrene.

Plastic pollution is killing our wildlife. That’s why Environment North Carolina is announcing a new campaign and working with local partners to ban harmful types of single-use plastic food containers in North Carolina.

Polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is one of the worst and most common types of plastic. Americans throw out 70 million polystyrene foam cups every day, and that doesn’t include bowls and takeout containers. Roughly a third of that discarded plastic ends up in our waterways: rivers, lakes, and especially oceans.

“Polystyrene foam is material we use only once for our food and drink, yet it lasts in our environment forever, causing harm to people, drinking water, and ecosystems. And many cities’ trash is trucked to lower-income counties where landfills are filling fast. Styrofoam is a pollutant to North Carolina, and this state-wide ban represents a first step to breaking our ‘take-and-trash’ addiction and moving toward a sustainable reuse economy. ” said Crystal Dreisbach, Co-CEO of GreenToGo, and Executive Director of Don’t Waste Durham.

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, but instead breaks down into tiny pieces called microplastics which have been found ingested by hundreds of different species. So much plastic pollution has escaped into our environment that there are multiple giant floating masses of plastic in the ocean, including one eleven times the size of North Carolina in the north Pacific….

“We’re not only polluting our oceans, we’re polluting Ellerbe Creek, the Neuse River, the Cape Fear River, and many other important local water resources. Our plastic pollution problem starts with us and it destroys our local environment first. We’ve known the dangers of plastic waste for decades and with safer, economical alternatives on the marketplace, now is the time to act” said Environment North Carolina State Director, Drew Ball.

Already, over two hundred municipalities from coast-to-coast have banned polystyrene containers in some form. In order to keep the momentum going, states need to do start doing the same. The Wildlife Over Waste campaign will build on local efforts taking place throughout the country.

Every Tray Counts (ETC) is an organization dedicated to working with children, parents and communities to promote responsible purchasing and waste diversion practices in North Carolina schools. Executive Director, Sue Scope, said “polystyrene trays are a health issue for children, an environmental issue for our land, and an economic issue for the development and growth of food composting sites across North Carolina. In our mission to replace polystyrene trays and encourage diverting school lunchroom waste away from landfills, we have worked with many schools, and have helped to replace thousands of polystyrene, single-use trays.” Scope said. “We encourage every parent and school to take a close look at their lunchroom practices to create a more sustainable school lunchroom….”

“With the many, safer alternatives that exist today, we don’t need polystyrene, or any single-use plastic for that matter,” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste Campaign Director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “We need to ban these unnecessary and harmful plastics that are destroying wildlife in order to shift towards better alternatives.”

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