It’s incredible that in this day and age we have not banned plastic bags in New York State. As environmentalists and scientists discuss the implications of the planet entering into a new geologic age… Anthropocene—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”, or The Plastic Age, or whatever you want to call it, we’re still taking relatively little action to change our ways. Our landfills and oceans continue to fill up with plastic, and yet we still produce and purchase the synthetic material in mass quantities, with no regard to the implications that the substance is having on the planet. Plastic is so pervasive that an article posted at www.upi.com states that “one study found the cosmetic industry alone is responsible for 80 million tons of microplastic waste entering the sea, and another recent study determined that by 2050, 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.”
The biggest problem is that while we are all aware of this issue, yet most of us simply carry on with our daily lives because we are not exposed to the consequences. We drive to work in the morning, and then drive home later and flip on the TV. We’ve distanced ourselves from this catastrophic problem – the predicament of plastic is generally out of sight, out of mind. We continue to bag our groceries in plastic bags, instead of choosing to make a real difference by bringing reusable canvas bags along with us to the supermarket. Then, countless items that we purchase are packaged in plastic, before being bagged in plastic. It would be humorous if it wasn’t so scary.
The plastic industry will continue to spend boatloads of money on lobbying to promote and protect the problematic product, instead of allowing alternative sustainable resources gain any ground. And consumers will continue to gobble it up for the shear convenience, and cheap costs associated with plastic. Unfortunately, there will come a time when we will all realize what we have done, and by that time it will probably be too late.
So what can we do to help in the here and now? We can start to change our plastic habits. Not tomorrow, or the next day… today. In order for that to happen, we must not only be conscious of our plastic purchasing/bagging habits, we must also educate people about the problems at hand.
The Buffalo Zoo is doing its part to educate the public. The Zoo has been awarded a grant from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I), to support pollution prevention education in area schools. This will be done via artistic means, by using plastic bags in art and video projects, while incorporating S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) into the curriculum.
“New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is pleased to support the Coalition as they address a significant environmental challenge here in New York,” said NYSP2I Director Charles Ruffing. “The Teaching K-12 Pollution Prevention through Art and Sciences project will educate teachers and students on how to reduce plastic pollution in Western New York.”
New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I), which is funded through a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), provided a $19,990 grant to support this campaign.
The Plastic Pollution Prevention through Art and Science program is being rolled out by The Buffalo Zoo, in conjunction with the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and other environmental science partners. The initial exercise is to host a Teacher Professional Development Day, to provide teachers with the educational resources that they need to effectively teach their students. The grant will allow the initiative to reach 80 classrooms of K-12 teachers participated in the program.
“Awareness of just the sheer quantity of disposable plastics we all use and discard, like the plastic bags used at stores to bag our purchases, is the first step in understanding the problem this plastic causes our natural environment. Scientific evidence tells us that these plastics hurt our wildlife in many ways” says Tiffany Vanderwerf, Chief Conservation Officer at the Buffalo Zoo. “The message we are trying to instill is, I am the solution to plastic pollution.”
Selected artwork from the program will be on display at the Buffalo Museum of Science at an Art Opening on Earth Day 2018.
“We are pleased to be working with area educators to creatively illustrate solutions that will reduce the need of single-use plastics. These plastics make their way into our environment, polluting our water and damaging our waste and storm water infrastructure.” said Andrew Goldstein, Erie County’s Recycling Coordinator.
Lead image: ronnieb