This semester I attended an event held by the Alliance for Planet Earth, which included a panel discussion and documentary on plastic usage and waste. I work at a local hardware store and was informed about this event by one of my local customers and a panel member for this event, Tim Goodwin, Mayor of Folly Beach. He told me about the seriousness of this issue and how they are attempting to change it in Charleston. Tim Goodwin is, not just a public official, but an advocate for his community which he has served for the past 14 years. When he is not busy with his mayoral duties at City Hall, he can be found out in the community helping with endangered turtle nests, volunteering at local churches and soup kitchens and even working with the college to help better our environment.
Mayor Goodwin informed me about the recent ban on plastic bags at Folly Beach and encouraged me to attend this panel. I was aware of the effects of plastic on our environment, especially in coastal areas, but I did not know the severity of it until attending this event. I have watched many documentaries on the effects of plastic on the environment and where it all ends up and they always left me feeling like there is little to no hope for the future, but this event gave me hope for the future of our environment.
The panel members discussed the seriousness of plastic consumption and waste and where we are today, in terms of contributing. They provided tons of statistics and facts about plastic that were astonishing. To put the seriousness of this issue into perspective, think about this, we use over 1 trillion plastic bags a year, and this is just one form of plastic. To produce a plastic bag in the United States it takes 12 million barrels of oil. So, you can only image the amount out materials and waste that go into producing all the plastic we use on a daily basis. When plastic is thrown away it usually ends up in the ocean and from there takes years and years to break down, but even when it breaks down it is still just as harmful because it is in the form of microplastics, which is very harmful to marine life. In totally, 8 million tons of non-biodegradable plastics enter the ocean each year and of that, 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic are floating on top of the ocean.
The panel informed on how the plastic bag ban has affected other areas in the world. Currently, 54% of the world has a ban on plastic bags and positive results have come from it. In San Jose, they have seen many positive impacts as a result of the 90% reduction rate in plastic bag usage, include; less storm drain blockage, less flooding and sewage back up. Ireland has managed to reduce 95% of their plastic usage and this is amazing to me! If we can follow in the footsteps of these communities I think that we will be able to pave the way for others and ultimately save parts of our environment that are being destroyed.
Mayor Tim Goodwin has done a lot to help out his community as well as his environment and in doing this I think that we can use his actions as a model for shaping the way we do things in Charleston so that we can protect our beautiful coastline and the ecosystems that make it up. We have to do what we can now to reverse or at least decrease the negative impacts we have had on our environment and if Charleston can make a change like this as a whole, other communities will hopefully follow in the footsteps.