By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
The auditorium at the Crest Theatre was standing room only for the city’s themed Town Hall meeting, Plastic Planet.
Sponsored by the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce and the City of Delray Beach, the meeting’s goal was to involve local residents in a dialogue on how to better manage and prevent the impact of hundreds of millions of tons of plastic deposited every year into our oceans and on our beaches.
According to Plastic Oceans International, a nonprofit organization which wants to end plastic pollution, 50 percent of all plastic used is single-use plastic, such as a single use plastic straw.
We use 20 million plastic water bottles each day, produce 300 million tons of plastic per year and dump eight million tons of plastic into our oceans every year. And, sadly, only 9 percent of all plastic produced makes it to a recycling facility.
The event opened with a skit about recycling by students at the Milagro Center, accompanied by drummers creating rhythms on plastic pails.
“We in Delray Beach want to make a difference locally,” said Mayor Shelly Petrolia. “To that end, I’ve elevated the city’s sustainability manager position and we’ve embraced the ‘Skip the Straw’ initiative.”
“Our efforts can begin locally and echo globally,” she said.
Local artists Sharon Koskoff, Marli Oliveira Thiffault, Sonya Sanchez Arias and Aidana Baldassare all created art using recycled materials and even bartender Heidi Elden was serving up chardonnay in made-from-plant compostable wine glasses.
Speakers included Julie Andersen, Founder of Plastic Oceans International, Evan Orellana, Director of Education and Animal Care at the Sandoway Discovery Center, Keith Miller, Branch Manager at Trader Joe’s, Dawn McCormick from Waste Management, Chris Gove, Founder of the Saltwater Brewery, City Commissioner Ryan Boylston, Jayson Koss, Founder of Delivery Dudes, Rick Konsavage, General Manager at the Marriott hotel, environmental attorney, Erin Deady and Jacqueline Botting, founder of WiseTribe.
According to comments by Petrolia and Orellana, the city of Delray Beach plans to take a leadership role in reducing the amount of plastic, especially single-use plastic used by the city and its residents.
“As an ocean city, we should take the lead,” said Orellana, noting, “plastic doesn’t have a happy ending.”
He talked about the hidden danger of micro-plastics, which are plastics which break down in the ocean into smaller pieces and absorb toxic chemicals and are then eaten by marine life and enter into the food chain.
As Andersen noted in her presentation, there are three ways to reduce our plastic footprint: rethinking the use of plastics, rethinking packaging and rethinking product design.
Delray Beach native and co-founder of Saltwater Brewery, Chris Gove, talked about “following his passion for marine conservancy and giving back to the community.”
His edible six-pack ring holders began “as a small idea which created a ripple that’s become a wave,” Gove said.
Instead of the traditional plastic rings to hold beer and soft drinks and which are known to harm wildlife and sea animals, the rings, also known as E6PR are made from barley and wheat byproducts as a result of the beer brewing process. They are edible and 100 percent biodegradable.
Commissioner Boylston spoke about the Belle Glade company, Tellus, which converts sugar cane waste into biodegradable packaging, such as plates, bowls, and take-out containers.
Trader Joe’s Miller spoke about his company’s efforts to reduce plastic packaging and Styrofoam and introduce bio-degradeable plastic produce bags.
What can an individual do to help reduce plastic pollution?
According to Plastic Oceans International, bring your own bag when shopping, drink tap water and carry it in your own bottle, don’t buy body scrubs— those tiny beads are usually made of plastic, choose fruit and vegetables that are not wrapped in plastic, use matches instead of ‘disposable’ lighters or use a re-fillable one, don’t use ‘single-use’ plates, knives, forks, etc., choose liquid products that can be re-filled rather than re-bought. (For more tips, visit plasticoceans.org.)
City resident and a Delray Beach Utilities Department Coordinator Kelly Simmons was doing just that. An environmentalist and avid participant in beach clean-ups, she was excited to purchase two portable all-in-one reusable knife, fork, spoon combinations which she will share with her daughter.
She was also happy to learn that the London Marathon, in an effort to reduce plastic waste after this month’s race was distributing golf ball-size edible pouches made from seaweed and filled with a sports drink.
“This is something near and dear to our hearts,” she said.
To learn more visit: delraybeach.com and plasticoceans.org