Plastic straws, foam cups and other throwaway plastic items would disappear from Fulton County-operated facilities by Jan. 1, 2020 under legislation approved April 17 by the Board of Commissioners. And the county will actively encourage local cities to follow suit.

The order to end the use of “single-use plastics” is a partly aspirational item, as it asks for industry definitions of such items and orders vendors to seek “viable” non-plastic alternatives, which may or may not be available.

“Fulton County is joining so many other municipalities, states and counties in doing our part to drive down plastic pollution by eliminating wasteful plastics, which never break down and end up back in the ecosystem and possibly our food supply,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts, a Buckhead resident, in a press release. “In a year when the Earth Day theme is ‘Protect Our Species,’ we at Fulton County are ready to achieve that goal.”

Single-use plastics include such items as shopping bags, drinking straws, tableware and cups.

Approved 4-0 by the board, the legislation was co-sponsored by Vice-Chairman Lee Morris, who represents Buckhead and Sandy Springs. It applies to any facilities owned, operated or leased by the county.

The legislation cites several inspirations, including a United Nations white paper on failures in plastic recycling, a University of Georgia professor’s paper about plastic pollution in the oceans, and plastic trash blocking county water systems.

The legislation orders county officials to develop and maintain a list of single-use plastics. The list will be posted on the county website and provided to the Department of Purchasing and Contract Compliance to “ask potential vendors to seek viable non-plastic alternatives to single-use plastics.”

“County leaders hope that the legislation will also encourage Fulton County’s cities to pass measures reducing the use and distribution of single-use plastics,” the press release adds. “To that end, the County plans to provide a copy of the resolution to each of Fulton County’s cities for their consideration.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.