By Karen Kendrick-Hands, JD, ESRAG Partnerships Envoy and Training Coordinator

Tools to Tackle Plastic Pollution

ESRAG’s Green Events Handbook includes strategies for preventing plastic waste at Rotary meetings and events.

The enormous proliferation of plastic waste has created one of the world’s worst environmental challenges. ESRAG’s Plastic Solutions team is mobilizing multiple forms of online and face-to-face education to equip Rotarians with tools to tackle plastic pollution. Here’s why it’s urgent that we implement solutions worldwide.

“Since the 1950’s, plastic has exploded into our life, changing it in ways that are big and small.   From entire beaches and rivers covered with plastic, to the tiniest airborne microfibers, plastics are filling our lives — outside and in,” ESRAG’s Plastic Solutions Task Force explains on its home page.

“Dealing with the discarded plastic we already have is a daunting project, but the amount we create each year is rising.  We created half of the plastic in the world in the last 15 years, and will continue to increase the world’s plastic output for years to come.  There is a mountain of plastic coming our way, disguised as fabric, hiding in food, holding our stuff, being our stuff.

“Plastic Solutions wants to reduce the threat caused by plastic waste by understanding its root causes, and promoting the best solutions.  From emerging technologies to simple reduction; from individual behavior change to systemic global change, some solutions are out there, and some are being invented. Rotarians can use their enormous networking power to influence how we create, use and dispose of plastic.”

ESRAG’s Plastics Solutions website offers a growing library of projects in several categories:

  • Cleanups
  • Data collection
  • Diversion from landfill or incineration
  • Individual behavior change
  • System and global change (including manufacturing, regulation, and advocacy)

ESRAG’s Lori Cloutier with Madalon Schaap, Cofounder of End Plastic Soup, at the Rotary International Convention in Houston

The website also links you to the Plastics Solutions blog series spearheaded by Lori Cloutier.  These are short, illuminating posts on the impact of single-use plastic and cost-effective ways you can reduce it.  McSisters Tackle Plastic (Barbara, Frances, and Beverly McChesney) are now supporting this outreach with contributions from their blog. Barbara and Frances are both ESRAG members. All three sisters are passionate about conserving our planet’s beautiful biodiversity.

In the realm of social media, thanks to the efforts of Tami Mulcahy, Plastic Solutions’ Instagram account has gained impressive traction through hundreds of posts, building a substantial following on Instagram and Facebook. Follow and share this news to amplify its reach even more.

Tami Mulcahy also staffed a booth in the Rotary Pavilion for three days at the EARTH X Earth Day event in Dallas, TX, engaging in presentations and conversations, and reaching dozens with our message.

ESRAG’s Plastic Solutions breakout session at RICON 2023

Lori Cloutier’s proposal for a breakout session, “Of Mothers, Children Plastic, and Waste,” was selected for the 2023 Rotary International Convention in Melbourne. Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, Vic Grosjean, and I served as panelists. You can watch it and share it with your club or district from ESRAG’s website. Nearly 100 people attended, notwithstanding a competitive time slot. Larry Hands filmed the session and Owen Hands edited the video.

ESRAG Plastics Solutions regularly hosts ‘Plastics Cafés’ and task force meetings on Zoom, fostering collaboration and exchange of ideas.  You can sign up for the Taskforce newsletter here – just scroll to the bottom of the home page –  to get the news of upcoming webinars and meetings that will offer you opportunities to share your ideas and learn from others.

The Taskforce also supported the completion of ESRAG’s Green Events Handbook, for use by all Rotary Club and Districts as they plan meetings, conferences, and other gatherings.  Developed by a multinational team chaired by Vic Grosjean of Australia, its strategies include choosing alternatives to single-use plastics. Past Rotary International President Ian Riseley explains the importance of greening Rotary events in his introduction to the handbook:

“With Rotary’s addition of the environment as an area of focus, Rotary members have an increased opportunity to protect the environment. We do this through projects and by running meetings and events that have minimal impact on the planet. By so doing, we support all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“This Handbook helps you organize green events that will reduce material and energy use, and minimize pollution in the air, water, and land. It provides a five-step process: Plan, Implement, Measure, Offset, and Reflect, to take global environmental issues into consideration as you share best practices established by Rotary members and environmental groups worldwide.”

Karen Kendrick-Hands is a co-founder and past Chair of ESRAG.