Working Group Updates from March 2018 Plastic Free Waters Meeting

Bag Group Update:

  • Policy: The bag group is exploring how to build up local efforts to support plastic bag policies, such as educational campaigns, reaching out to residents, businesses, and to elected officials.
  • Leading by example: The bag working group is exploring lessons learned from businesses that have already done away with plastic, such as Costco.
  • Strategy: The bag working group is investigating strategies for how to get people to break the habit of using plastic bags. This involves gaining an understanding of the best alternatives, identifying key stakeholders, and identifying promising communities, such as Nassau County, to outreach to.  The role of environmental clubs and school groups has been critical for passing legislation in previous cases. The bag group is investigating why policies stall or fail to be implemented, as part of this approach.

Bottle Group Update:

  • Disseminating educational materials : A major short term goal of the bottle working group is to increase access and usage of bottle refilling stations. The working group is planning activities for sharing information about plastics pollution and encouraging reusables. This includes social media posts, flyers, and other materials that will be shared with stakeholders– starting with schools.
  • Raising awareness and encouraging use of reusable bottles in schools: A major strategic focus will be to target younger people that share concern over plastics pollution, as younger generations are poised to successfully push for change. The working group is looking into how to best engage schools.
  • Developing a database of refilling stations:  The bottle working group is planning activities for building a database of refilling station  with mapping capabilities. This will make it easier for people to find and use refilling stations. ReeFill will continue to install and maintain stations. However, a database would assist PFW identify trends with respect to station locations, and gain a sense of how accessible they are to different public audiences. Ultimately this information could assist PFW push for more publicly accessible refilling stations.

To-Go Container Group Update:

  • Engaging NY Businesses: the to-go container working group has partnered with the Solid Waste Advisory Board to expand the use of reusable containers in local businesses in New York. This will also involve outreach to restaurant groups and chains.
  • Toolkit for Business Owners: the to-go container working group will develop a toolkit for businesses on standard operating procedures for reusable to-go containers. This toolkit would also include lists of containers for businesses to use and to list on their website.
  • Long Term Aims: The to-go container working group is also exploring how to work with the NY Department of Health on how to make standard operating procedures easier for businesses to comply with, and improve knowledge and understanding of compliance. At the same time, the working group is staying abreast of developments for 135 legislation to ban styrofoam.

Microplastic group

  • Defining Goals and Objectives: The microplastics working group is finalizing a set of goals and objectives to focus future work. These will be posted publicly on the PFW website soon. These goals emphasize the importance of identifying research priorities and gaps, supporting standardized methodologies for microplastics sampling and analysis, increasing public education efforts, and engaging both manufacturers and policy makers to develop solutions, and considering parties across the supply chain in working towards a circular economy. The working group is exploring options for public-health focused goals and activities.

Plastic Straw Group Update:

  • Strategy: The straw group is working to identify effective strategies to reduce plastic straw pollution. This includes exploring the roles of business alliances, in particular the impacts of getting all the restaurants and groups in a downtown area on board with the same straw policy, and the role of customer support.
  • Plastic Straw Upon Request Policies: the straw working group is discussing the possibility of starting a running list of straw campaigns, and having a database of the different kinds of plastics legislation that people can consult. This would allow people to easily locate local ordinances and other resolutions, especially those relevant to plastic straws.
  • Pros and cons of straw alternatives: The straw working group is building out pros and cons of the available straw alternatives, such as paper straws, aluminum straws, and the reusable straws such as stainless steel straws.

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