On Wednesday, November 16th, I attended the panel discussion and Bag it screening. The panel discussion included presentations from Lia Colabello, Director of Community and Partnership at 5Gyres, the City of Folly Beach Mayor, Tim Goodwin, and Katie Zimmerman, Program Director of Air, Water, and Public Health for the Costal Conservation League. I chose to attend this event because after working in various restaurants, it has made me realize the incredible amount of plastic waste thrown away each day. Due to ignorance about recyclable products and removal costs, recycling is often overlooked. I was curious to learn more about the short and long term effects of plastic in the environment, and the efforts against it.
The panel discussion began with Lia Colabello of 5Gyers introducing shocking statistics about the organizations findings. Out of curiosity after the event, I looked into the movement 5Gyers is creating. It was founded after a couple researching pollutants in the Pacific Ocean sailed through the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, and realized the greater issue to come.
Lia explained and effectively advocated the organization’s goal of making plastic a worldwide concern. An increasing “smog of the sea” is being created by over eight million metric tons of plastics made from petrochemical we deposit into the sea each year. The plastic then degrades into microfibers, making it look tasty to marine life and nearly impossible to remove. These toxic laden plastics are eaten and absorbed into fishes flesh, up to 90 pieces have been found in a single fish. Now that these plastics and chemicals have made their way into the food chain, they may soon be present in our food sources.
Katie Zimmerman explained the local effects plastic has caused and outlined the plan of attack for the future. Although the Charleston area has become greener with recycling in recent years; the Charleston Harbor contains over seven tons of plastic mircobits with one of the highest amounts of styrofoam pollution in the U.S. She discussed the upcoming want for change and how the movement began. School children from Isle of Palms, in fear for the sea turtles they saw on a field trip, convinced their parents to opt for change. I thought it was interesting that young children saw how plastic waster was influencing the environment, while many adults are still unconcerned with the effects. However, the tricounty area seems close to a less plastic future; a survey of business owners in the tricounty area of 4800 citizens, over 83% supported a plastic ban.
Mayor Goodwin further reinforced the importance and success of plastic control acts. Folly Beach has just passed a plastic bag and styrofoam ban, with an auxiliary container act to come. He emphasized how everyone has the right to a clean beach, especially our future generations. The push for a cleaner environment in Folly was expected, and passed with little resistance, showing the growing waste concerns. This is a remarkable moment, and hopefully other areas like Sullivan’s Island, will feel the need to keep up with Folly’s progress.
After attending the event, I felt informed and am looking forward to getting involved with the anti-plastic movement. Bag It was eye-opening, and took a closer look at the health effects of the chemicals produced from and within plastic products through the perspective of a concerned citizen, further reenforcing the warnings of the panel. I found the local speakers to be very encouraging and optimistic about the positive change we can create in the environment with our knowledge and participation.