One of the great things about being able to write a column is the opportunity to learn from the community.
After my column on plastics, Jeff Horstman from ShoreRivers contacted me about their environmental advocacy program. The impact of ShoreRivers in supporting the health of our rivers is well-known, and it also serves as a local advocacy for reducing plastics, in particular, single-use plastics.
Single-use plastics are just what they sound like, plastics that have been developed to be used once, such as plastic bags, plastic water bottles, plastic wrap and all of that plastic packaging around our purchases. Single-use plastics are choking our rivers, oceans and landfills; and since they take over 1,000 years to decompose, our increasing use of plastics is being an environmental nightmare.
I spoke to Elle Bassett from Shore Rivers about their local advocacy on the Eastern Shore on behalf of plastics.
ShoreRivers is supporting a bill by Trash Free Maryland and sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman (who sponsored the bill to eliminate Styrofoam) and Sen. Malcolm Augustine. This bill, called The Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act, prohibits stores from distributing plastic bags, requires stores to charge at least 10 cents for each paper bag and establishes a Single-Use Products Working Group to make recommendations for reducing single-use plastics. Hearings were scheduled in the House of Delegates for February 11th and will be held in the Maryland State Senate on February 20th.
Similar bills that have passed in California, New York, Vermont and Hawaii while DC, Connecticut, and other states such as Delaware, Maine, and Oregon have set restrictions on plastic bags.
According to Bassett, there is local activity as well. In 2011, Chestertown passed an ordinance banning plastic bags https://chestertownspy.org/2011/04/05/plastic-banned-in-chestertown/
Queen Anne’s county is the first in the state to ban the release of helium filled balloons thanks to the advocacy of Plastics Free QAC.
Talbot County does not yet have ordinances, but there is a lot of work being done by a myriad of local organizations and individuals.
Why is this so important? I mean what damage can a plastic bag do, right? According to Bassett, the rarest of all sea turtles, the Kemps Ridley Turtle was recently spotted in the Miles River. In the water, plastic bags look like jellyfish, a sea turtle’s favorite food. What if that turtle died trying to consume an inadvertent plastic bag that blew into the river? I for one, don’t want to kill anything that consumes jellyfish.
Over the next several columns, I am writing about local activities. Since I believe that only thing that I can change is myself…I have set a personal goal to learn as much as I can about them and chronicle them.
For those who wish to know more about advocacy programs through ShoreRivers, you may contact Elle Bassett directly at (443) 385-0511 X213.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.