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.