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NCPIRG calls on YoPo and Sutton's to stop using styrofoam

Franklin Eats Suttons.JPG

UPDATE 5:03 p.m. 4/17/2019:  

Yogurt Pump manager Emily Jefferson said they’re very open to a dialogue with NCPIRG, but added that they face multiple hurdles to using single-use or biodegradable products.

She said they’ve explored several options, including compostable cups, but the lack of an industrial composting facility in Orange County makes that option difficult. Also, since she estimated that 60-90 percent of their customers leave the store before finishing their frozen yogurt, they’re unable to ensure that those cups are disposed of properly.

“We’re not in really a position to not use single-use items anyway,” she said. 

Jefferson said because they work with dairy products, most options for single-use compostable items would not be possible anyway, since dairy products would contaminate the compost. Some customers bring in their own utensils, and Jefferson said she always loves to see that.

She said she hopes to continue a dialogue with NCPIRG as well as the town to see what options small businesses may have for limiting their use of single-use items, but said she has not heard back from NCPIRG about a follow-up meeting or other actions.

The UNC chapter of the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group delivered petitions to Yogurt Pump and Sutton’s Drug Store on Thursday, demanding that they stop using styrofoam and single-use plastic in their restaurants. 

The request is part of NCPIRG’s lead campaign for spring 2019, where they’re focusing on campus sustainability and single-use plastics. NCPIRG is a consumer interest and research group with an emphasis on environmental and public health issues. 

Jean-Luc Duvall, campaign organizer for statewide advocacy group Environment North Carolina, spoke at a press conference before the petition deliveries.

“We know that plastic pollution is a huge problem. There’s so much plastic on this planet that scientists have found particles in the deepest trenches of our oceans,” Duvall said. 

Duvall emphasized the effects that plastic has on wildlife, and added that plastic used in food packaging can be especially damaging since it smells like food and attracts animal attention. 

“To add insult to injury, only about nine percent of all plastic products in the United States are actually recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills which often feed into our waterways either by storms or mismanagement of our waste disposal,” Duvall said.

Christian Lutz, a junior environmental science major and campaign coordinator for the UNC chapter of NCPIRG, said they’ve been trying to discuss their concerns with Sutton’s and Yogurt Pump for roughly the past year but haven’t gotten much response. After speaking with the owner of Sutton’s, Lutz said he sent an email about the project but didn’t get a response. 

“We’ve been trying to stay in contact. My grass ops coordinator this semester tried to get in contact with Sutton’s, and they said we can meet in March and they said to email them again, but they never really set up a meeting,” Lutz said. 

Yogurt Pump has had almost no response, Lutz said, so the petition drop was intended to show that NCPIRG is serious about their concerns. Lutz also said the rest of the town needs to take sustainability more seriously, and he said he hopes that seeing businesses make changes will lead to increased change from policymakers. 

Both the Yogurt Pump and Sutton's did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Tar Heel.

Miranda Wolfe, an environmental science major at UNC and visibility coordinator for the campaign, said the petitions also stemmed from student concerns for the environment and how local businesses could make a positive impact.

“As many students around campus understand and are concerned about the severity and the state of our environment, we only saw fit to look into ways that we could make a difference for the earth here in Chapel Hill,” Wolfe said. 

Because Sutton's and Yogurt Pump are cornerstones of Chapel Hill, Wolfe added, NCPIRG hopes that seeing change in these restaurants will spread to other establishments.

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“Through gathering petitions and speaking with students, we’ve found that nearly everyone we’ve spoken to has agreed that though we love Sutton's and YoPo, we’d love them even more if they used more sustainable methods,” Wolfe said.

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