Plastics Campaign

Microplastics in the Haw from Haw River Assembly on Vimeo.


Trash Trout

Our Trash Trap team in Greensboro

NC Riverkeepers across the state received a grant with the help of Waterkeepers Carolina, to collaborate with Asheville GreenWorks and their Trash Trout design to help mitigate stormwater pollution in our waterways. Ours are in Durham and Carrboro. The Haw River Assembly has also installed several of our own Trash Traps in the watershed. We hope this model will encourage other municipalities to follow suit.

Help us monitor your waterways Trash Trout by signing up here to become a volunteer member.

Plastics Pledge

In efforts to mitigate this issue, the Haw River Assembly is partnering with local businesses to eliminate single-use plastics in their business models. Look out for our campaigns window decal and support these local businesses working to eliminate the consumption of microplastics one straw at a time!

How can your business transition away from single use plastics? Check out the link here

See Who’s Pledged to Eliminate Plastics in Your Watershed here.


Some of the largest consumers of the single-use plastics that end up in our rivers and oceans are the service and retail industries. While this has an immediate effect on local wildlife, it also has a long-term effect on climate and public health. Plastics have become essential components of products and packaging because they’re durable, lightweight, and cheap. But though they offer numerous benefits, plastics originate as fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases from cradle to grave. Today, about 4-8% of annual global oil consumption is associated with plastics, according to the World Economic Forum. If this reliance on plastics persists, plastics will account for 20% of oil consumption by 2050 (Yale Climate Connections).  

The public health concern is that these single use plastics break down even further, into microplastics, which later make their way into the food we eat and into our drinking water. A 2019 study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund and conducted by researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia estimated that people consume about 5 grams of plastic a week — roughly the equivalent of a credit card.


Plastics Research on the Haw

We are monitoring microplastics in the Haw River at several locations throughout the basin. This includes downstream of large municipalities like Greensboro, Burlington, Durham, Chapel Hill and Apex. Thanks to a team at UNC Chapel Hill, we will soon be able to provide you with quantitative data comparing major cities in the Haw River basin for their plastics pollution.

Microplastics Study Measures Impact On Waterways

Durham – Measuring microplastics in North Carolina’s waterways is no small job. In collaboration with Waterkeepers Carolina, Haw River Assembly is launching a two-year study to collect surface water and sediment samples to understand better the volume of microplastics and macroplastic pollution in North Carolina’s streams, rivers, lakes, and bays.

The study “Improving Human and Ecosystem Health through Microplastic Reduction” launched in February as a collaborative project across 10 nonprofit environmental organizations. To get baselines, 15 Riverkeepers collected two surface water samples and sediment samples. This is the first of bi-monthly samples that will be collected over two years.

To follow this study and learn more about North Carolina’s Riverkeepers’ work, visit Waterkeepers Carolina – https://waterkeeperscarolina.org.

Most recent further studies on Microplastics: 1/11/2024

Using newly refined technology, researchers have entered a whole new plastic world: the poorly known realm of nanoplastics, the spawn of microplastics that have broken down even further. They counted and identified these minute particles in bottled water for the first time. They found that, on average, a liter contained some 240,000 detectable plastic fragments 10 to 100 times greater than previous estimates, based mainly on larger sizes. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20240108/Bottled-water-harbors-a-quarter-of-a-million-tiny-plastic-particles-posing-unknown-health-risks.aspx

Study: Rapid single-particle chemical imaging of nanoplastics by SRS microscopy