[Regarding “Green in Brief: MountainTrue Seeks Ban on Single-use Plastics,” April 13, Xpress:] I would like to thank Mountain Xpress for helping to bring more public awareness to the issue of microplastics, their effects on human health and the environment, and our efforts to reduce them through local legislation. However, a few points in the article need some clarification:
First, MountainTrue is not alone in the effort to reduce plastic pollution in WNC. The campaign to pass a single-use plastic-reduction ordinance is a collaboration between MountainTrue and the WNC Sierra Club. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge all the hard work our friends at Asheville GreenWorks have done hosting litter cleanups, installing Trash Trout litter collection devices and encouraging local businesses to adopt greener practices.
Second, since microplastics are just the smaller fragments of everyday plastic items, it’s worth noting broader concerns about the effects of plastics and the additives used to make them. Styrene, an ingredient in styrofoam (a form of plastic), is classified as a likely human carcinogen. Phthalates, which are used to make plastic products more flexible, disrupt the endocrine system, harm the reproductive and nervous systems, and have been linked to higher rates of childhood asthma and other respiratory conditions. Both of these chemical classes readily leach out into the environment around them, be that a drinking water source, a landfill or the human body.
These are serious concerns in light of the fact that the average person ingests approximately one credit card’s worth of microplastics every week and that microplastics have been found in the human placenta and, according to a recent study, in 80% of blood samples.
Finally, while it is true that the General Assembly repealed the local bag ban for the Outer Banks in 2017, the ordinance we propose takes a different approach. The N.C. Solid Waste Management Act mandates that towns, cities and counties implement programs and other actions to address deficiencies and “protect human health and the environment.” Furthermore, it protects cities from retaliation by clearly stating that nothing within the act “shall be construed to prevent the governing board of any county or municipality from providing by ordinance or regulation for solid waste management standards which are stricter or more extensive than those imposed by the state.”
Because the presence of a pollutant that is harmful to both human health and the environment has been documented in our region (we have the water samples to prove it), Asheville and Buncombe County not only have the power to act, they have a legal duty to protect its residents.
Let’s push Asheville to adopt an ordinance regulating single-use plastic. We want a healthier and safer place to live and recreate. Visit plasticfreewnc.com for more information and find out how to be involved.
— Anna Alsobrook
Watershed Outreach Coordinator
Editor’s response: Thank you for your feedback on the article. We have updated the online post of the story to note the WNC Sierra Club’s role in developing the model ordinance.