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Statewide Campaign Launches to Reduce Polystyrene Use

An undetermined number of polystyrene containers are generated daily across North Carolina, and a statewide ban would ask businesses to use compostable containers instead. (Jasmine/flickr)
An undetermined number of polystyrene containers are generated daily across North Carolina, and a statewide ban would ask businesses to use compostable containers instead. (Jasmine/flickr)
June 7, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. — Our take-out culture is taking its toll on North Carolina's landfills. It's estimated that Americans throw away 70 million plastic foam cups every day - and that doesn't include bowls and take-out containers.

It's something that community groups and concerned citizens are working to change in the Tar Heel State. On Wednesday, Environment North Carolina joined Compost Now and Every Tray Counts to launch "Wildlife Over Waste." Executive director Drew Ball said something must change.

"It's a material that actually doesn't break down,” Ball said. “Every single piece of polystyrene that we've created is still out there polluting our environment somewhere. And these types of plastics break down into what's called microplastics, and they're really hard to get out of our ecosystems."

More than 200 cities have banned polystyrene containers. Hyde, Dare and Currituck counties banned plastic bags in 2010, but state lawmakers repealed the ban in 2017.

Ball said while the campaign is starting with foam containers, the plan is to address other non-compostable waste such as bags and other items. He said in addition to polystyrene’s negative effects on the environment, it also presents a problem for local governments.

"Our local governments are the ones that really have to deal with these waste streams,” Ball said; “and they see our overflowing landfills and they also see the damage that it's causing to local rivers and creeks."

There are multiple giant floating masses of plastic in the ocean, including one 11-times the size of North Carolina in the North Pacific. This summer, Environment North Carolina canvassers will be knocking on over 30,000 doors to urge consumers and businesses to support a statewide ban.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC