HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Today, Earth Day 2021, twenty-five regional social justice and environmental organizations are sending a letter and informational packet to grocers in the Ohio River Valley, asking them to reduce their reliance on single-use plastic packaging in their stores and move towards sustainable alternatives.
The educational packets are addressed to more than 500 regional grocery store managers and the CEOs of their parent companies. The mailing will educate them on the negative health and environmental effects of single-use plastics, the links between plastics and climate change, and the sad truths about plastic and its lack of recyclability.
The effort, which launches today with a concurrent social media campaign, is led by Dr. Randi Pokladnik, a volunteer with the Huntington-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). One way people can easily join in the nascent social media campaign is to sign onto this Action Network letter.
Dr. Pokladnik, whose doctoral degree is in Environmental Studies, notes, “Plastics have become so prevalent in our world that even the most pristine areas of our planet are drowning in plastic. Scientists know that we are threatening our very ability to reproduce as we are being exposed to plastics and plasticizers in every aspect of our lives.”
“An ideal way to address the plastic crisis is to refuse single-use plastic packaging and find alternative packaging materials.”
Educational materials included in the letter to grocers include two publications by the Center for International Environmental Law:
Plastics & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet
Plastics & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet
The organizations signing the letter are:
Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community / Christians For The Mountains / Concerned Ohio River Residents / FracTracker Alliance / Freshwater Accountability Project / Friends For Environmental Justice / Lakewood Community Solar Co-op / Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action / Mountain Watershed Association / People Over Petro Coalition / Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania / Protect Franklin Park / Protect PT / Putting Down Roots / ReImagine Turtle Creek Watershed and Airshed Communities Plus / Simply Living / Sustainable Sewickley / Tackling the A-Z Impacts of Plastic / Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition / Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance / West Shore Fact / West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light / West Virginia Environmental Council / West Virginia Sierra Club / WVU Post Landfill Action Network
Ben Hunkler Organizer, Concerned Ohio River Residents:
The plastics pollution crisis has profoundly scarred frontline communities in Louisiana, the Ohio River Valley, and across the globe with upstream air and water pollution and downstream refuse. Recycling and other individualized solutions won’t cut it — we need far-reaching, systemic change, and fast. Grocery store managers can help turn off the tap of single-use plastics products by reducing plastic bags and packaging, seeking out reusable alternatives, and supporting legislation like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020.
Leatra Harper, Managing Director, FreshWater Accountability Project:
I remember the days of very little plastic use, and we survived just fine. The industry has created its own huge markets without any accountability for cumulative effects of this mass proliferation of the harmful chemicals and plastic waste that never goes away. Grocery store managers can help hold the plastic industry accountable for its harms to human health and the environment and help expose the true cost of plastics.
Allen Johnson, Coordinator, Christians For The Mountains:
Plastic waste from one-time use contributes to the desecration of God’s creation. Our God-given covenant responsibility as humans on Earth is to enhance, strengthen, and protect creation.
Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance:
In our work at FracTracker Alliance, we witness the detriments of plastic – from the health risks of living near fossil fuel extraction supplying the raw material, to the effects on aquatic life where the containers too often end up. Plastic fragments are now found in the air we breathe, and the tissues of our bodies, while climate change accelerates from the industry’s emissions. Enough is enough. Grocery stores have a critical role to play in rejecting plastic packaging, and embracing alternatives.
Cathy Cowan Becker, Executive Director, Simply Living:
Recycling is not the answer for plastics. My city’s recycling doesn’t even take most plastics because there is no market for them. Plastics like plastic bags, food containers, take-out clamshells, etc., do not recycle. If we are lucky, they go to the landfill where they will sit for millions of years. But many of them end up in our oceans where they poison sea life that mistakes them for food.
West Shore FaCT:
Single-use plastics in retail packaging are unnecessary, unwanted, and dangerous. Plastic waste threatens our environment, disproportionately harming low-income areas and communities of color. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 (HR 5845) reduces plastic production, increases recycling, and protects frontline communities. Call on Congress to take action on HR5845 now!