By Katauna Loeuy
“The Truth about Plastics,” a day-long educational forum hosted at Whatcom Community College, brought together a variety of experts and concerned citizens to study the hard truth about plastics and their environmental impact.
The Mt. Baker chapter of the Sierra Club, Zero Waste Washington, and the Sustainability Club at Whatcom joined professors from Western Washington University and Washington State University, for the all-day seminar.
“The objective of the event is to get people excited about helping the environment,” said Heather Trim, the executive director of Zero Waste Washington.
A collection of tables held displays of information on various environmental topics.
The focal point of the event was to educate the community on the process of how plastics are created and destroyed, and elaborate on the overall life cycle of plastics and their negative impact on the community.
Peter Ross, with Ocean Wise a nonprofit organization, discussed microplastics and how over time today’s microplastic will be a reservoir for tomorrow’s microplastics. He said plastic is a direct physical threat to sealife.
Ross showed data from a recent study only to discover that there are up to 9,200 particles per cubic meter in just the North Eastern Pacific Ocean. He also said that zooplankton are mistaking microplastics for food and fish eat zooplankton and larger ocean animals eat fish and the cycle continues.
All roads lead back to microplastic because “we’re all connected to the ocean,” he said.
Mark Peyron, a professor at Western, gave an in-depth explanation of the most common plastic items and how these plastics are processed and their impacts.
Rick Eggerth, the vice chair of the Mt. Baker chapter of the Sierra Club, presented information about the plastics industry and deceptive advertising.
Eggerth was instrumental to bringing the forum together. His idea was “to focus on things about plastic that aren’t as well known as the problems in the ocean, things like where plastic comes from, the environmental impacts of getting the plastics materials together and making plastics, sort of the life cycle of plastics like where do they go once they’re used, how they can be disposed of and what they are disposed of.”
Eggerth said that the overall objective of this event is education.
“There are a lot of plastics events that are more industry-based, but I wanted this to be something that everyone and anyone can come to. There’s a lot of information about plastics that people aren’t genuinely aware of and we want to help spread that.”
Other speakers included, Patricia Hunt who spoke about the impacts of chemicals in plastics on humans and animals; Alex Ramel who spoke about the plastics and climate change and petrochemical processing in Northwestern Washington; and Heather Trim who presented on the local and statewide policy solutions.
Whatcom’s Sustainability Club also discussed waste and plastics sustainability efforts at Whatcom specifically. These club members helped plan and host the event and each of the them gained different things throughout the process.
Kiran Sondhi, a member of the Sustainability Club, promoted her business “BellingBird” at the event.
“I learned a lot about textiles and sweatshirts, which also has a lot to do with my business,” she said. “I learned about organic textiles and the clothing industry and how it’s affecting overall sustainability and how it has a negative impact.”
Kris Dietz, secretary of the Sustainability Club and new to Bellingham said: “I wanted to participate in the plastics conference as a way to make connections with people locally, network and hear a wide range of ideas from different people.”
Lucas Anderson, president of the Sustainability Club, agreed.
“None of us are perfect, so we should try to maintain what we do ourselves,” he said. “I like that we have access to all of these resources and we should try to get more of them around town.”