By SARA RUBERG
Judith Enck is pushing people and communities to replace their single-use plastic materials.
Enck, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and current senior adviser at Bennington College, works to combat the problem of plastics alongside college students through her newly founded organization, Beyond Plastics.
Beyond Plastics hopes to decrease the 9 million tons of plastic entering the oceans each year. Enck hopes to accomplish this by working with community leaders, educating individuals and taking legislative action.
“(Plastic pollution) is a giant environmental and public health threat that very few people are engaged on,” she said. “The good news is that there is a lot that we can do.”
The Garden Club of Lake Placid hosted Enck on July 16 to talk to individuals on how they can replace the single-use plastic in their daily lives. She emphasized reducing the use of the plastic trifecta: plastic bags, plastic straws and polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam. Enck prompted the audience to replace each with reusable options and encouraged them to ask their peers and communities to do the same.
If plastic use doesn’t change at homes, communities and businesses, scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight. While individual actions play a critical role, Enck also says that legislation, such as the recent plastic bag ban in New York that will go into effect in March 2020, is necessary to make a serious impact.
“Your personal choices are very important, but they’re not enough,” she said. “We really need all of you to jump in on this issue … . We don’t have a lot of time to solve it.”
After her lecture, audience members divided into breakout sessions. Each group acted as either a business or consumer group that deals with plastic use. At the end of the sessions, groups presented their ideas on how their pretend businesses and organizations could replace plastics and why they should.
Donna Baribeau was part of the group that represented a small landscaping business. Baribeau and seven other members suggested the business could replace its plastic pots with pots made from recycled cardboard and newspapers. Perhaps the business could even sell the “fiber pots.”
Baribeau, a resident of Willsboro, says she attended the event because she wanted to learn how to reduce using plastic at home.
“Teaching our children and grandchildren how to reduce using plastic starts with us at home so that it doesn’t keep growing into a larger and larger problem,” she said.