I went to the Alliance for Planet Earth documentary viewing and panel discussion about plastic bags and similar containers. The event began with accounts from three local leaders, the first being Lia Colabello of Five Gyres. She discussed how plastic materials that are not properly disposed of and contained ultimately find there way into the Earth’s oceans. She showed pictures of “garbage patches” made of conglomerated pieces of plastic that form in all of the oceans around the world. She also talked about how plastic never really disappears from the Earth, rather, it continues to break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These small pieces of plastic and microplastic can then be ingested by marine life and sea birds, where it bioaccumulates up the food chain until it eventually gets to us. Current actions are being taken to reduce the amount of plastics being put into the ocean through governmental regulations and the actions of concerned citizens. The next speaker, Katie Zimmerman of the Coastal Conservation League, put a more local focus on the effects of plastic in our environment by showing pictures and sharing stories about plastic that has been found in Charleston’s water ways. She also discussed how the South Carolina government was viewing the issue of bans on plastic bags and other disposable containers. She mentioned that the South Carolina government did not really like imposing statewide laws, and that, as of now, the state legislature has decided to let local governmental bodies make their own decisions about what to do regarding these containers; however, they have said that they support bans and taxes on them. She also mentioned how some lobbyists and other powerful people have been resisting these kind of movements by trying to impose laws that make the ban of plastic bags and similar items illegal. Many of the people doing this are in some way affiliated with the large plastic manufacturing companies located in South Carolina. The final speaker was Tim Goodwin, the mayor of Folly Beach. Mayor Goodwin discussed how the city of Folly Beach has taken action within the last year to completely ban all plastic bags, plastic and styrofoam containers, and styrofoam coolers from being sold, distributed, or even allowed to enter the city as of January 2017. He said that the movement was overwhelmingly supported by citizens and local businesses, and that it received very little resistance from any of the local business owners. In fact, he said that the local Harris Teeter grocery store in Folly Beach has already begun to phase out plastic bags and other plastic-product containers in it. Finally, the event ended with some questions from the audience, mainly regarding further actions to be taken, and the screening of the documentary “Bag It.” The documentary focused on a man who stopped using plastic bags in his life, and the changes he had observed from it. It only further enforced the idea that plastic bags and other products should be phased out of use as soon as possible, because their benefits are few if any, but their problems are widespread and catastrophic.
Bag It Documentary