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Plastic pollution the focus of 2018 Earth Day

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By Kacie Goode

With 91 percent of plastic waste failing to be recycled, ending up in oceans and poisoning wildlife, a movement to “End Plastic Pollution” is the focus of this year’s Earth Day events.

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“Today we are joining with people from all over the earth who have come together this week to raise awareness of the state of the earth — our common home — and to discover what each of us can do to improve the situation,” said Rosemarie Kirwan, SCN, during Friday’s Earth Day celebration at Nazareth. “The concern is over the accumulating amount of plastics, especially single-use plastics, those which are difficult to recycle and are designed to be used only once.”

While plastics were designed for durability and convenience, Kirwan said, it has also been “their greatest curse,” as most do not biodegrade in meaningful ways and much of the plastic ever made still exists in some form.

“I invite you to look around your own kitchens or your own bathrooms or your own toy boxes and discover the amount of plastics that are there,” Kirwan told the audience.

For several years, Nazareth and the Sisters of Charity have hosted an Earth Day event to discuss the annual topic. This year, the event welcomed two guest presenters.

Carolyn Cromer, director of ecological sustainability, spoke about the build-up of single-use plastics and finding recyclable or compostable alternatives.

“All of us are bombarded every day with plastics,” Cromer said. “As consumers, as people who buy things, it can be hard sometimes to avoid plastic, but there are some products for which we can find alternatives.”

Cromer held up a plastic soap dispenser, explaining to the audience buying a simple, unpackaged bar of soap could help reduce plastic waste.

“These are some of the worst offenders,” she said, holding up plastic coffee stirs and plastic straws, both single-use plastics. She then held up a metal spoon. “Here’s an alternative to that plastic coffee stir, and it’s something that everybody has.”

Forgoing plastic water bottles, Cromer said she prefers to drink from glass jars, but also encouraged the guests to use metal or glass containers for beverages. Other biodegradable materials could be added to compost bins after use, she said. If plastic was an unavoidable choice, she said to try and find plastics that can be recycled and to reuse them as much as possible before recycling them.

Finding alternatives to single-use plastics was the Reduce step to the Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle practice Cromer asked the community to adopt as consumers.

The refusal step, she said, was to simply choose not to use plastics in certain situations, such as swapping out plastic shopping bags for reusable cloth ones or paper.

The event also welcomed Robert Jones, expense, sanitation and sustainability manager for Kroger, who manages 117 stores. Jones touched on what the supermarket chain is doing to reduce waste.

Among the initiatives he is looking at, he said, is decreasing the use of plastic bags, promoting reusable bags, using less plastic in packaging and finding more plastic alternatives.

More information on this year’s plastic topic can be found at www.earthday.org.