Is this plastic necessary? Market asks us to check

CHATHAM–For the Chatham Real Food Co-Op, July is Plastic Purge Month. In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic used in daily life, the Co-op is encouraging local businesses to give out fewer products made of plastic, such as plastic shopping bags, straws, to-go containers, and disposable beverage bottles. So far, most businesses on Main Street in Chatham have joined in to cut back on the pollution this type of waste creates.

Plastic is one of the more harmful pollutants to the environment, leaking hazardous toxins into the planet’s air and water in addition to causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of marine animals. Plastic hurts many aspects of life on Earth and, in spite of its indisputable convenience, it is harming us, too.

“There are thousands of chemicals being put into [plastic], and everybody has plastic in their systems now. All the stuff in plastic is then leeched into whatever liquids are contained in the plastic containers,” says Calliope Nicholas, one of the organizers for the Plastic Purge Campaign.

Ms. Nicholas said that plastic cannot be recycled and instead ends up in a landfill, in the oceans or is burned in an incinerator, which only causes more dangerous toxins to be released into the air we breathe.

After the month-long purge is up, Ms. Nicholas hopes that awareness will be raised, and that people will start to think about plastic and take a look at their own personal lives and how much plastic they’re using.

“Especially with the good water system we have right here in the community, we can take glass, aluminum, or stainless steel and take our tap water and carry it around with those. And by reducing those we can definitely reduce the impact,” she said.

Economically, there are factors that make plastics much more appealing to businesses than alternatives. Plastics are made from petroleum and with oil prices having decreased in the recent past, the costs of production and distribution of plastic products has become cheaper than in previous years. But the increase in production of plastic products has led to less recycling overall and more plastic pollution.

The Plastic Purge initiative hopes to bring awareness to this topic through a series of local workshops and other events. On July 15 at noon at the Chatham Real Food Co-op at 15 Church Street (state Route 203) in the village, Ms. Nicholas and Deborah Conrad will lead a discussion called “What’s in Your Trash?” Ms.Conrad is a co-organizer of the local campaign.

Participants are invited to bring a week’s bag of trash, which will Ms. Nicholas and Ms. Conrad will sort through to see how people can produce less waste in a week. They will also weigh the trash, and a group discussion will follow about how to lessen the amount of trash.

On Saturday, July 22 there will be a screening of the award-winning documentary, “A Plastic Ocean” at noon at the Crandell Theatre on Main Street. The film was shot around the world, and explores environmental and human health issues connected with plastic pollution.

And finally on Saturday, August 5 there will be a Home Composting Workshop at noon at Chatham Real Food Co-op. An expert in composting methods will be there to show participants the most effective ways of home composting.

“This is not only for our health, but for our kids, and for our grandkids,” says Ms. Nicholas. “I think there’s a cumulative effect of plastic pollution that’s going to affect us, and this community is an eclectic and wonderful community to be in. I wanted to start raising awareness here.”

Ms. Nicholas hopes this campaign will encourage others to speak out to local organizations and businesses about the over usage of plastic products, and help the environment for generations to come.

For more information on ways to get involved with the campaign, or how to reduce plastic usage, visit www.chathamrealfoodcoop.net

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