JANUARY 14, 2019 BY
The images are haunting: a seahorse clutching a Q-tip, a sea turtle with a straw in its nostril, the soupy mess of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Each year, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans, disrupting ecosystems and harming aquatic life.
Living more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean, the plastic pollution crisis can feel like it’s a million miles away. But, it’s a problem that impacts all of us, even in the land-locked Yampa Valley.
We are a single-use society. About 40 percent of all plastic produced is packaging, much of it used only once and discarded. Less than 20 percent of all plastic gets recycled globally, and, in the U.S., it’s less than 10 percent. When plastic isn’t recycled, it breaks down into tiny bits called microplastics, which are accumulating in our oceans and soils.
But, the world is waking up to the perils of plastic. Global campaigns like “No Straw November”and “Plastic Free July” are inspiring individuals of all ages to reduce single-use plastics.
Businesses are also getting on board. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. ditched plastic straws at the start of the ski season, and Starbucks is following suit by the end of 2020. Sodexo, which provides food service for 13,000 locations — including Colorado Mountain College campuses — will be plastic bag and stirrer free this year.
As of September, 349 cities, counties and states in the U.S. have banned or put a fee on plastic bags. In Colorado, mountain communities such as Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, the Roaring Fork Valley, Telluride, Carbondale, Vail, Durango and Avon have passed bag bans or fees.
At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 at the Bud Werner Memorial Library, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council will host a free screening of the award-winning documentary “Bag It.” Set in Telluride, the film follows Jeb Berrier as he explores the complexities of our plastic world. Initially, the focus is on plastic bags, but the lens widens to explore the harmful effects of plastics on our environment and our bodies.
“Bag It” helped raise awareness about our society’s plastic predicament and is the perfect kick off to our own community’s campaign to address single-use plastic bags. In November, students from Teen Council proposed a bag ban to the Steamboat Springs City Council. At the film, the Sustainability Council will provide an update on City Council’s deliberations about a bag ban or fee and how you can get involved in reducing single-use plastics.
Anne Mudgett is the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council communications and development director.
IF YOU GO
What: Bag It
When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16
Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.