Last week (12 November, 2019) PFWP held a meeting at the New School. Titled ‘Microplastics and Human Health’, which featured experts on plastics, microplastics and their impact on human health from a variety of professional backgrounds.
Professor Barent Roth of the New School, professor at the Parsons School of Design‘s BFA Product Design and MFA Industrial Design programs.
Lisa Kaas Boyle is an environmental attorney and founder/activist from the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
Scott Fallon is an investigative reporter who has covered the environment at The Bergen Record since 2008, concentrating on the legacy of industrial pollution in New Jersey.
Dr. Phoebe Stapleton, an Assistant Professor in the Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology.
Moderating the event was Catie Tobin, who is the Microplastics Researcher for Clean Ocean Action (COA).
Jordan Christensen reports that the Bag Work Group’s current focus is on supporting education and outreach in areas that are currently in the process of introducing or considering legislation on plastic bags. This includes identifying how to get bills off the ground, including the key environmental and economic talking points. The group has also identified other types of plastic bag outreach and education actions that could be transferable to other areas. This includes ideas like”take a bag leave a bag”, getting reusable bags for delivery at restaurants included in bag bills, and incentive programs for people who bring their own bag. Efforts like these could help supplement policy with education and engagement.
Lisa Ruggero reports that the Messaging Group is working on a half-page flyer for partnership members to use when they are at public events to spread the word about the Plastic Free Waters Partnership. The flyer’s call-to-action is going to center on how to join the partnership and why. The flyer will include the Plastic Free Waters”hashtag”. The flyer will be finalized in 1 month of the October meeting.
The messaging group is also working to align messaging strategy with specific materials, based on the workgroup activities. A different material will be the focus of social media and messaging strategy each quarter. This will also take into account current legislation— for example, the messaging group will be focusing on the upcoming Styrofoam ban in NYC to align messages and approaches. The messaging group will also produce reminders and promotional material, such as curated Instagram posts, tweets, and social media templates that can be used by partners. Concurrently, the messaging group is identifying ways to tout the success of partner members and highlight achievements.
Microplastics Work Group
Catie Tobin of the Microplastics working group reports that they will be implementing a survey for people working on the issue of microplastics to best identify the short and long term priorities.
Balloon Task Force
Dini Checko reports that the Balloon Task Force is looking for members. Clean Ocean Action, a PFW partner, has found an uptick in the amount of balloon pieces collected. Virginia Clean Waters has also found that there is a large percentage of debris coming from plastic balloons. The first priority for this task force is to put together a communications package that includes facts, resources, and other essential information on the impacts of balloon releases. Balloons could be the next straws, and we need to ensure that people understand the impact of this kind of material
Reusables Task Force
Karen Bray reports that the new Reusables Task Force (formerly the to-go container working group and the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board) will be working specifically on shifting away from single use to-go containers to reusable materials in New York City. There will be five workstreams: 1.) market research 2.) pilot programs in order to show success and feasibility 3.) policy research to identify barriers to policies about this topic 4.) promotions and brand awareness and 5.) partnerships and funding (atthis point premature, still looking at proof of concept).
Straws Work Group
Allison McCarthy reports that the main priority for the Straws group is to develop and distribute a toolkit specifically for restaurants with resources for taking the first steps to eliminate plastic straws, switch to paper or reusable alternatives (if necessary), and educate customers. The straws work group is also working on how to engage the disability community in conversations about straws, and how to address needs of people living with disabilities. The straws work group is also focusing on ensuring that information and developments, such as engaging new businesses and restaurants,is shared between working groups and PFW member organizations.
The meeting will take place at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, 290 Broadway, NY, NY 10007, room 27A. The meeting will feature a panel discussion on DESIGN, INNOVATION and CIRCULAR ECONOMY.The afternoon will be dedicated to workgroup breakout sessions. A full agenda is coming soon.
9:30- 10 – Pre-meeting networking and coffee
10-noon – Panel and updates
12:15-1:45 Workgroup breakout sessions
1:45- 2:15 Workgroup Announcements
Please RSVP to the meeting and specify if you are attending in person or remotely (by phone/computer; details for conferencing are below).
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.
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.
Catie Tobin (researcher, Clean Ocean Action) moderated this engaging Microfibers Panel Discussion for the Plastic Free Waters Partnership (PFWP) meeting, October 26, 2017, hosted by The New School in New York City. Panelists were Rachael Miller (Rozalia Project), Laura Sansone (The New School) and Carolyn Box (5 Gyres). The discussion included an overview of the microfibers problem and challenges, current research, the latest on solutions, best practices, and calls for action.