Cape Fear River Watch and Others Call on Cooper to Act 

A letter from CFRW calls on Governor Cooper to use executive action to reduce unnecessary single use plastics in state agencies.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)- Environmental advocacy groups are calling on Governor Cooper to take executive action to reduce plastic waste in North Carolina.  

The North Carolina Plastic Waste Reduction Coalition, run by statewide public interest advocacy group, NCPIRG, includes a variety of national, state, and local organizations all working to move North Carolina towards a cleaner and healthier future that is not littered by plastic waste.

“Plastic has detrimental effects on our health and environment from cradle to grave,” says NCPIRG State Director Katie Craig. “There is no reason that something we use for just a few minutes like a plastic bag or styrofoam take out container, should be able to threaten our environment, wildlife, and health for hundreds of years.” 

This past week, the coalition has ramped up efforts calling on Governor Cooper to take action at the executive level. These environmental advocates are taking on this campaign from every angle, including hosting educational events for local activists, generating phone calls and emails into the Governor’s office, holding local clean up actions across the state, and more.

This past weekend their clean up efforts resulted in over 4,700 pieces of litter being collected, of which over 80% was either plastic or polystyrene (commonly known as styrofoam). Over half of the litter documented came from Cape Fear River Watch’s cleanup in Wilmington. They say that the most common types of plastic found included food wrappers, plastic bottles, and plastic grocery or retail bags which highlights the need to reduce our consumption of these types of plastic waste from the source before they end up in our environment. 

Water Quality Programs Manager at Cape Fear River Watch, Rob Clark, told WWAY that in just two hours on Saturday, the 80 volunteers were able to document 460 total pounds of litter and recyclable materials. He noted that the problem is much worse, however, because only about half the team was able to collect data. That means that half of the overall waste material that was removed was undocumented.

“Until as a society we decide that we are not going to take part in (using these plastic products), then we are going to continue to see plastic all around us- in the water, on the ground, everywhere”.

Clark also stated that the community can help by using more sustainable products and volunteering during the local clean ups. Strucural structures have also been funded to CFRW which help trap and prevent waste from entering the waterways. However, despite the clean ups and structural solutions, he compares it to “putting a band-aid on an open artery”, explaining that the problem will persist as long as there is a demand for these single-use plastics and non-biodegradable products.

“Every day, our state government agencies contribute to the tons of plastic ‘stuff’ that gets tossed out in North Carolina. All of this waste not only clogs our landfills, trashes our parks and litter our streets, but it also washes into our rivers and oceans, where it can harm wildlife and even our own health.” Says Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette. “Governor Cooper has been a great environmental advocate for the last 5 years, and now is his chance to continue that legacy.”

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