Fulton County formally honored for ban on single-use plastics in county buildingsGeorgia Water Coalition Executive Director Rena Peck presented Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts with a statue recognizing the county's Clean Clean 13 Water Heroes Award. Credit: Georgia Water Coalition
By David Pendered
The Georgia Water Coalition has worked around COVID-19 to formally recognize Fulton County for its first-in-the state restriction on single-use plastics at county-owned facilities.
The policy was envisioned to be a guidepost for other governments and Atlanta followed suit, with a policy to take effect by Dec. 31. Oceana’s office in Savannah talked up Fulton County’s policy during the Plastics Free July Challenge, which drew attention to the global problem of plastic waste.
On behalf of the Georgia Water Coalition, Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Peck presented a small statue to Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts, who accepted it on behalf of the county Thursday in a small ceremony at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. The coalition had cancelled its March 12 awards banquet because of the pandemic, and has been honoring recipients of its Clean 13 Water Heroes Award at small ceremonies around the state.
The statue awarded to Fulton County honors the results of negotiation efforts with county officials that were led by the Fulton County Citizens Commission on the Environment. The effort culminated in a policy that set a Jan. 1 deadline for addressing the use of plastic products in building and facilities the county owns or leases.
The battle over the plastics policy was hard-fought. The Board of Commissioners first approved an outright ban in April 2019, with commissioners Marvin Arrington Jr. and Bob Ellis not voting and not explaining their action; then suspended the ban in a vote in May 2019 with Pitts and Commissioner Lee Morris not voting; and adopted a less restrictive policy by unanimous vote in July 2019.
The following is the operative language the commission changed. The first statement is the original version. The second statement is the substitute version, with the changes marked in italics:
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Board of Commissioners hereby directs all Fulton County departments to immediately begin to phase-out the use of single-use plastics by incrementally substituting such products with viable non-plastic alternatives with the aim of fully eliminating the usage of all single-use plastic products, within Fulton County owned, operated, and leased buildings and facilities, by January 1, 2020.”
- “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Board of Commissioners hereby directs all Fulton County departments to immediately begin to phase-out the use of single-use plastics by incrementally substituting such products with viable non-plastic products (deleted) alternatives where possible, or recycling plastics for which feasible alternatives are unavailable, with the aim of fully implementing the aforementioned directives, within Fulton County owned, operated, and leased buildings and facilities, by January 1, 2020.”
Both versions stated the policy would not be in conflict with any provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In a post on Facebook, Pitts observed of the award:
- “I was honored to accept the Clean 13 Water Hero Award from the Georgia Water Coalition in recognition of Fulton County’s efforts to reduce plastic waste at our facilities.”
Rena Peck, executive director of the Georgia River Network, said in a statement:
- “As a native Atlantan, I’m so proud that Fulton County is the trailblazer. It took a lot of guts and tenacity by the commissioners and staff. … Fulton County has taken the lead in curbing the stream of plastics into our waterways.”
The plastics ban is part of a body of work that includes a sustainability program the commission approved in June 2019. The sustainability program set the mitigation of climate changes as its No. 1 goal.