Microplastics inspire students to create petition to ban plastic bags – The Appalachian
App State students have created a petition to ban plastic bags in Boone to prevent more microplastics from already being found in local and state waters, according to a recent water study by local and national water guardians.
According to National geographic, microplastics are tiny plastic particles caused by the breakdown of large pieces of plastic, which pollute the environment. These microplastics, which are consumed by animals and are in human bloodpolluting Boone’s waters like Winkler’s Creek.
Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue High Country Regional Manager Andy Hill participated in a statewide microplastic and litter study led by MountainTrue and Waterkeepers Carolina.
Hill said he collected surface water samples from every river basin in the state, filtered the water, then analyzed the sample for microplastics using a microscope. He said microplastics are “usually invisible to the naked eye”.
Microplastics were found in 100% of water samples from western North Carolina, according to the study, and Hill said some of the microplastics found came from different materials such as plastic straws, clothing , cups, bottles, polystyrene and plastic bags. He also said that more than 6,000 individual pieces of waste had been collected, of which more than 88% were single-use plastics.
“Overwhelmingly, we found more polystyrene than anything else,” Hill said.
Hill said water guardians and volunteers collected local samples from the Watauga and New River basins. He said these basins “are home to incredible biodiversity” and must be protected.
App State students Adrianna Nelson, Amber Parker and Cate Smith created a petition after being assigned to do a group project for their avian biology class. Biology professor Lynn Siefferman said the project should focus on research and data collection, encourage social action on conservation issues or reach out to community members.
Nelson, a biology student, said water pollution is a problem that affects everything from all ecosystems, “including us”. Because of this, she said she believed the project would move people.
“The pollution that we cause and affect these environments and these creatures as well, is tied to us and our well-being on many levels, physically and emotionally,” Nelson said.
Siefferman said because microplastics are starting to make their way into the ecosystem. She worries about how it will affect her children’s health.
Siefferman, who has an 11-year-old son, said: “It never occurred to me that I should worry about microplastics in his body and how much he’s going to bioaccumulate in his lifetime.”
Eight states have already banned single-use plastic bags: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont.
“They’re fine, so why not us?” Why can’t we be part of it? Siefferman said.
Siefferman and Parker said they believe petitions are an effective way to raise awareness of an issue and show Boone and state stakeholders how many people are willing to get involved.
“Our hope, at least here in Boone, is that we can help get this trash in the water and everything under control,” Parker said.
Nelson said she shared the petition with several groups in the community and on campus, such as the High Country Audubon Society, the National Parks Club, the Highlands Biology Club, the university’s sustainability department and the Boone City Council.
The group has also been in contact with Hill. He said he supports people “who take action to protect the environment”.
On March 9, Hill presented the study and the data collected to Boone City Council. He said BTC seemed receptive to the idea and they asked lots of questions. Hill said city staff are considering their options on what they can do and will come back to council with a recommendation on what kind of changes can be made.
“I think the board and staff have been very supportive, very open to learning.” said Hill.
Hill believes that if immediate action is not taken quickly, then “the problem is just going to get exponentially worse.”
“Plastic is not an infinitely recyclable material like aluminum or steel or anything like that,” Hill said. “I think we need to phase out plastics wherever we can.”
He said that as the population increases, so does the amount of plastic waste in our waters.
Sustainability director Lee Ball said there are other things that contribute to and use microplastics that people don’t think about, such as skincare products, body scrubs and clothing. . Ball also said he thinks the wind in Boone contributes to the amount of pollution that gets into the water because litter on the ground blows into it.
“We have to help each other know what to do with our stuff when we’re done with it,” Ball said. “And that has a lot to do with deciding what we buy in the first place.”
Ball and Hill believe that one way people can reduce the amount of microplastics and pollution is to avoid buying plastic products that contribute to the problem. Instead, people should buy and use reusable, durable, and recyclable goods, as well as become more educated and educate others about the importance of waste management and recycling.
“We have to get away from this mentality that once we’re done with this, we’re not responsible,” Ball said. “We are responsible because we bought it in the first place.”