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Katherine Martinko (left), Lifestyle Editor and Senior Writer for treehugger.com spoke about reducing plastic waste at a CFUW event April 10 at  Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre. CFUW Issues member and Saugeen Shores Councillor Cheryl Grace was in attendance and is also actively working to raise community awareness about waste reduction.

Hub Staff

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Southport hosted a discussion on reducing plastics in Saugeen Shores at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, April 10. Katherine Martinko, Lifestyle Editor and Senior Writer at treehugger.com, delivered a presentation to the CFUW members in attendance on the damaging impacts our environment is facing due to plastic waste.

Martinko acknowledged that as a society we are becoming more aware now of the negative influences of our plastic consumption. Unsettling images shared over social media streams on a daily basis make it hard to ignore these issues and as individuals we are recognizing the consequences of our personal choices.

Martinko's speech revealed some statistics. For instance, the volume of plastics manufactured in 2014 was enough to fill the Empire State Building 900 times. The equivalent to an entire dump truck full of plastic ends up in oceans every minute. Closer to home, she quoted a study that claimed 10,000 tonnes of plastic finds its way into the Great Lakes each year.

Martinko confirmed recent concerns in our recycling operations and said that in the United Sates only nine percent of discarded plastics were recycled in 2018 and just 11 percent in Canada. She explained that the US and Europe do not have the infrastructure to support recycling at the rate at which we are generating and discarding plastic. Until recently 70 percent of American plastic waste was sent to recycling plants in China and minimal effort was put forth to prepare for this massive increase in recycling that would now need to be handled on our own turf. As a result, in some municipalities, and unbeknownst to the consumer, their recycling is driven directly to the dump. Other recycling attempts are being transported to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand or India where fewer regulations often produce even more harmful environmental outcomes.

Even when executed correctly, Martinko called plastic recycling a scam. “Plastic is never truly recycled. It’s always down-cycled into a lesser form of itself. In other words, it always becomes a flimsier form of plastic that eventually cannot be turned into anything else at all and it goes to trash," she explained.

After the harrowing summary to our current state of affairs, Martinko pulled listeners from the gloom by introducing some of the innovative technologies that are surfacing in attempts to battle the plastic pandemic. She also shared some of her own lifestyle changes she has put into practice to reduce her family's waste.

“My goal is also to show you that there is hope," said Martinko. "There are ways to tackle this, plastic bag by plastic bag, and find a new way of living," she said.

Martinko encouraged attendees to do a plastic audit of their home to reveal how much plastic is involved in their day-to-day living and where things can be improved. In regards to food, Martinko told the group that she makes as much food from scratch to reduce store packaging and keeps a food and drink storage kit in her car ready for any restaurant leftovers, takeout orders, etc. She also sources as much locally produced food as possible which can reduce significant amounts of packaging.

Martinko said that with a little extra effort, you can find many quality personal hygiene products, clothing made from natural fibres and outerwear made plastic free. Solutions are out there and the more we support these types of companies, we not only strengthen the company but also their forward thinking practices, she said.

Saugeen Shores has begun its journey with phasing out plastic straws but Martinko said we have a long way to go and recommended Saugeen Shores strive to ban plastic bags, plastic straws, single use bottles and styrofoam containers.

The CFUW Issues Group is hosting a second talk on the issue of plastic at the Port Elgin Public Library April 17. Guest speakers Betty Durst and Diane McKinley are members of a Blue Bayfield grassroots group that spearheaded an initiative that led to Bayfield becoming the first North American community to be recognized as a plastics-free community. The talk gets underway at 7:30 p.m. and is open to all.

katherine martinko

Katherine Martinko spoke at a CFUW event at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre April 10.

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