A provision in the new state budget takes aim at local plastic bag bans and other efforts to reduce pollution. The provision prohibits municipalities from restricting or regulating the use of ‘auxiliary containers,’ which includes bags, cups and packaging. It comes as cities, such as Asheville and Durham, consider bans or fees on items like single-use plastic grocery bags.
Environmental advocacy group MountainTrue has pushed for plastic bag bans in Buncombe County, and co-organizes cleanups to remove trash from the Swannanoa, French Broad and other rivers in the area “We’re kind of sick and tired of doing it,” said Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue’s Deputy Director of Strategy and Communications. “A lot of the trash that we see ending up in our rivers are plastic bags.”
Olaechea added that the group has sampled every watershed in its service area in western North Carolina “Every water sample that we’ve collected shows the presence of microplastics,” he said. “In the French Broad watershed, which is in Buncombe County, 40% of those microplastics are from microfilms. That’s what happens when things like plastic grocery bags or food wrappers start to break down over time.”