Nov. 17 marked the 15th anniversary of America Recycles Day. The recycling division of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) at The College of William and Mary held a great event to raise awareness and civic involvement.
There were stations urging people to help the environmental effort and promoting eco-friendly practices. Free, reusable grocery bags and mugs were offered to passersby. Healthy, vegan food was among the offerings at the tables.
Two letters were available to sign that asked certain Virginia representatives (both at the state and national level) to take legislative action on behalf of the environment. A letter addressed to U.S. Senator Mark Warner asked for his support of the Trash Free Seas Act of 2011, which would track marine debris, prepare for the reduction and removal of trash, and educate relevant industries about their environmental impact. A second letter could be addressed to Virginia State Senator John Miller or Delegate Mike Watson, which urged support of a state tax on disposable, single-use plastic bags: a "PlasTax." It argues that the 500 billion bags consumed annually across the world are largely pointless and detrimental to the health of ecosystems. It cites the example of Ireland, which introduced a PlasTax that resulted in a 90 percent reduction in consumption, more than $9 million in revenue for environmental and waste management projects, and saved retailers the cost of purchasing the bags.
After various student musical performances, SEAC showed the documentary "Bag It." The film provided an eye-opening look into the costs of everyday plastic products and their use. It explored the world of plastic chemicals, from the numerous health impacts of commonly used chemicals, to the industry's attempts at keeping the plastic bag market alive.
The film didn't focus on recycling but portrayed it as helpful and more effective in the case of aluminum cans. It detailed the costs of plastics and the general culture of disposability. It mentions that due to the absence of regulations on the recycling symbol on products, most products without 1 or 2 on the symbol aren't recycled by the plants.
It is important to recycle, but recycling must not be seen as the easy solution to everything, which it is often perceived to be. We must work harder to use less plastic all around. As we remember what we are thankful for over the holidays, we must ask what we can do to protect that which we cherish. Being more frugal with plastics and single-use disposable products is an important start to preserving the value of this one planet we all share.