CAPA, Local Impact, Student News

Beyond Plastics 2019: Letters to the Editor

Students in Judith Enck's Plastic Pollution and What Students Can Do About It course have written letters to the editor about the need to protect the environment and marine life from the growing problem of plastic pollution.

Photo of plastic in ocean

Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator, joined the College in January 2019 as a Senior Fellow and Visiting Faculty member. She launched the Beyond Plastics project, housed at Bennington College, as a way to work with college students and community leaders around the country to reduce plastic pollution.

Those interested in receiving periodic updates about the Beyond Plastics project are invited to sign up for more information.

It's Time to Reduce Our Plastic Consumption

"I appreciated your article 'Green Tree Plastics in Evansville makes a national impact,'" wrote Salome Roysdon '23 in the Courier Press. "I agree that turning recycled plastics into plastic lumber is a noble goal, but I wish this article had done more to stress the importance of reducing plastic production to begin with. As mentioned in this article, only a fraction of the plastics produced are actually recyclable. However, recycling’s shortcomings don’t stop there."

While recycling plastics has fewer ecological impacts than producing virgin ones...I would like to suggest that [people] endeavor to cut down their plastic use overall.

Salome Roysdon '23

Sen. Tarr Should Focus on Plastic Waste

"While wasted fish are disturbing and unhealthy, an additional major concern is some 700,000 tons of abandoned fishing gear the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates are floating free in our oceans today," wrote Cassandra Taylor '21 in Newton TAB. "These plastic nets, traps, and lines make up for 10% of the total plastic in our oceans."

In a world where this is one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the is impossible to talk about fishing without also implementing more regulations on equipment to keep plastic out of our oceans

Cassandra Taylor '21

Vermont's Single-Use Plastic Ban

"In asking Vermont consumers to be responsible for our own reusable bags, we as a state set an example for the rest of our society to express that we do not need to embrace the throw-away culture any longer, and that our love of convenience comes at too high a cost to support in every facet of our lives," wrote Gisele Dierks '22 in Vermont Journal. "I am so proud to be part of a community that is leading this change across our country."

A supply of sustainably sourced, durable cloth bags for a household of average size can be sourced for roughly the same price as splurging on a lunch date and if cared for properly, can last many years.

Gisele Dierks '22

Cut Back on Plastic in LEGOs

"Where can LEGOs go? The ocean, where they never degrade," wrote Katie Johnston '23 in Arizona Daily Star. "LEGO bricks are washing up on beaches all over the world. The toys are slowly (over centuries) abraded into microplastics, while releasing toxic chemicals."

Let’s encourage LEGO to make toys out of material both safe to play with and safe for the environment.

Katie Johnston '23

Simple Steps Can Make a Difference

"Many marine organisms cannot tell the difference between plastic and food, and thus starve to death with stomachs filled with indigestible trash," wrote Ren Barnes '22 in the Brattleboro Reformer. "We need to work together to reduce our plastic waste and end unnecessary deaths!"

Have a reusable coffee mug or water bottle on you. You can ask vendors to fill your own cup instead of their soon-to-be garbage ones.

Ren Barnes '22

Millennial Change

"Millennials are no longer interested in buying clothing intended to be worn a handful of times and then thrown out," wrote Zoe Smith '23 in the Winston-Salem Journal. "While fast fashion is attractive because of its low prices, the materials it is made out of are often composed of plastics."

With new stories breaking every week about plastics found in aquatic animals, it is time to think about what individuals can do. Purchasing clothing made from sustainable materials is definitely a start.  

Zoe Smith '23

Reduce Use of Plastic to Preserve Nature

"We need to decrease the use of single use plastics and styrofoam," wrote Andrea Tovar '23 in The Statesman. "If we don’t reduce our consumption, then by 2025 it’s estimated that for every three metric tons of fish there will be one metric ton of plastic in the ocean."

Join me in reducing our plastic consumption. Tell your friends, and together we can make a change and preserve nature for the future to enjoy.

Andrea Tovar '23

Ban Plastic Bags and Discourage Paper Use

"Many towns and states have enforced paper bag fees in addition to the plastic bag ban so that consumers do not become reliant on paper as we have with plastic," wrote Brian Ducey '23 in the Bennington Banner. "While paper may not be as harmful to the environment as plastic, paper bag production depletes vital natural resources at an alarming rate. Approximately 14 million trees are used each year, solely for the production of paper bags."

More people are switching to the sustainable practice of using reusable bags, which is a necessary step for combating the threat of global warming. 

Brian Ducey '23

Bag the Bags

"How can New Yorkers prepare [for fees on paper bags]?" wrote Zo Williams '23 in Brooklyn Downtown Star. "The first step is to pay attention to how much you use. When do you shop? When do you stop in at the corner store? What do you buy? What does it take to carry?"

This bag ban and fee aims to reduce shoppers use of single-use items that choke and poison wildlife, destroy forests, and whose production and transportation contribute to the climate crisis.

Zo Williams '23

Stop Putting Plastic Into Our Waterways

"When I was a student at Keene High, I participated in both the Ashuelot River and the Beaver Brook litter cleanups, and was dismayed to see the sheer volume of litter we took out of the waterways," wrote Will Huntley in the Sentinel Source. "As good as it is that we live in a community that is willing to wade through rivers to clean up garbage, it would be better if there were no litter problem to begin with."

Pollution, especially plastic pollution, is a pressing issue that the world is facing right now, and our community needs to do our part by not littering our garbage.

Will Huntley '23

Sound the Alarm on the Scourge of Plastic

"A study recently published in Frontiers in Chemistry, a well-respected science journal, found that 93% of all bottled water tested contained microplastics. When we drink bottled water, our bodies absorb and retain microplastics," wrote Emma Fenton '23 in The Daily Gazette. "We talk about how bad plastic is for marine life, but often neglect to think of what it is doing to us."

Plastic has taken over our planet. Advocate for better laws and make better choices. Try to buy less bottled water and prepackaged food. We don’t want plastic taking over our bodies, too.

Emma Fenton '23

Reducing our Single-Use Plastics

"Following the changes to recycling in 2018, most single-use plastics used in the food industry cannot be recycled," wrote Ashton Clatterbuck '23 in LancasterOnline. "This means that the plastic is ending up in landfills where it remains — forever."

Every day, Americans throw away 70 million plastic bags — this is a shocking number. The best way to address this issue is to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we use.

Ashton Clatterbuck '23

All Can Join in Fight Against Plastic Pollution

"I found a very interesting initiative, which could benefit Bennington if we all agree to implement it in our town," wrote Lika Torikashvili '22 in the Bennington Banner. "We can organize a one-month challenge, when everyone in Bennington will commit to reduce their consumption of plastics. This was done by Plastic Free July movement, who have set up a website and were asking people to do this only for a month."

We should also always remember and share the frightening statistics about plastic pollution, like the one that there are 500 times more pieces of microplastic in the sea than there are stars in our galaxy.

Lika Torikashvili '22

Algal Blooms

A recent "article addresses the increased numbers of algal blooms being found in clams and other shellfish, causing them to be toxic to eat," wrote Bella Nelson '23 in The Nome Nugget. "The root of the algal bloom increase is the Arctic waters warming, but what is the source of the ocean temperatures rising? This answer is not one simple thing. However, a concerning contributor is plastic pollution."

By moving towards other alternatives such as giving up plastic straws in exchange for reusable straws,
using reusable bags, and educating ourselves and the public about plastic pollution, we can all make an impact and help save our oceans as well as the precious life within.

Bella Nelson '23

How Improper Recycling Processes Can Further Damage the Environment

"In a 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy, Vietnam was listed as one of five countries dumping the most plastic litter into the ocean. The report also notes an estimated 2,500 tons of plastic waste discharged across Vietnam daily," wrote M.A. Ly '22 in Vietcetera. "This plastic waste usually ends up buried in garbage dumps from which it is collected by waste pickers and sold to family-owned businesses that do plastic recycling."

[Vietnam] must focus significant resources on creating a high-capacity, safe and efficient plastic recycling system.

M.A. Ly '22