Buncombe board considers ban of plastic shopping bags

Buncombe County’s Environmental Advisory Board met Friday morning, Oct. 21, to consider prospects for reducing or even banning plastic shopping bags here, among other initiatives.

“It’s on our policy direction list from the Commissioners to evaluate plastic bags, and different ways the county might be able to reduce the amount of bags” that end up in the environment, says Maggie Ullman, energy coordinator of the City of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability, which assists the county board. Ullman explains that the group has been asked to investigate the prospect informally, but adds, “There would be a lot of willingness in this community.”

In similar actions across the United States, such bans are an effort to reduce the amount of the lightweight plastic bags that end up blowing around area parking lots, getting trapped in vegetation, and ending up in area rivers and streams and eventually in the world’s oceans.

Ullman points out that officials in other communities in the U.S., including Portland, Oregon, have enacted bans on the bags in recent years. Portland officials have reported that they considered banning plastic and placing a five-cent fee on paper, a proposal area grocers were willing to support. Portland went with a straight ban, ramping up its outreach efforts to encourage reusable bags, educate the public about plastic vs. paper bags and support merchants who must purchase the bags their customers use.

“Portland’s approach is a ban, but I’d be surprised if we went in that direction,” reports Ullman. “We get good results through volunteerism on environmental stuff in Buncombe County.” Ullman adds that the approach here is intended to be collaborative and voluntary. As Ullman put it, “That’s the way environmental change happens best in the long run.”

The Environmental Advisory Board studies and recommends environmental initiatives, and performs special duties and projects related to the environment. Its sixteen members serve at the pleasure of the Commission, and meet the third Friday of every month in the Mountain Area Job Training Conference Room in the Maple Building on the campus of A-B Tech. The Board presently has several openings it is seeking to fill. For more information, contact Maggie Ullman at 271-6141.

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8 thoughts on “Buncombe board considers ban of plastic shopping bags

  1. Big Al

    Plastic bags bags were forced on businesses by the “save a tree” enviromentalists who ignored the fact that paper bags which escape the landfill cycle will quickly and naturally biodegrade. Plastic bags require a diligence which too many do not possess to recycle them, and use too much water for that process. Those that are not recycled are too easily swept by wind from the trash into the woods where they linger forever as visable, ugly pollution.

    Get rid of plastic bags and give away some of the cloth reusable (and made from recycled materials) bags!

  2. Steve

    If banning plastic shopping bags is being considered, why is the city handing out free plastic bags for leaf removal. For some reason the city has decided that the vacuum truck that has sucked up the leaves in the past will not be used this year. Instead everyone in the city must bag their leaves. Loose leaves will not be removed.
    How can we implement the use of plastic bags in one area, and ban them in another.

  3. LOKEL

    It is time for Asheville to make this move and be a leader in the region in outlawing plastic bags …. and while we are at it maybe all the bottled water at meetings held by the various City and County departments (fire, police, council, commissions etc) should be the next banned item ….

  4. Curious

    Is it possible to recycle plastic bags with other plastic recyclables that go in the green bins we all use? If not, why not? Could Curbside Management handle them if they were put in separate bins?

  5. Selene22

    If you research what is actually done with recyclables collected curbside across the country, the sad truth is the program is a failure. The only solution is to cut unnecessary packaging out of our daily lives. I support the ban, volunteerism would be high in this community but never enough. Old habits are hard to break, an half the people opt for immediate convenience in most situations.

  6. Ouverette

    Oh Asheville powers that be…once again you contradict yourself and leave me wondering just who in the hell manages this city. You want to ban plastic grocery bags but at the same time now are requiring residents to bag their leaves in order to save money while destroying the environment??? Save money? Unbagged leaves decompose in only a few months. Bagged and piled leaves even in biodegradable bags take years. If it really is a cost saving measure why is it other larger cities in NC such as Raleigh still vacuum leaves?

  7. bobdurivage

    What happens to plastic when you throw it away?
    What happens to plastic? We trash it every day
    What happens to plastic? It’s with us everywhere
    Some bury it in the ground. Some burn it in the air
    It’s plastic. It’s plastic. It’s catching up quite fast
    It’s plastic. It’s plastic. How long can it last?
    How long can it last?

  8. elon123

    Retailers, as much as consumers, are concerned about protecting the environment in which we live, work and play. And, while I applaud the sentiment the suggested ban is not the solution. The North Carolina Constitution specifically prohibits the regulation of commerce by local acts and therefore any County ordinance prohibiting retailers

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