After growing up in Ireland, Noreen Hill-Olszewski was surprised to find that there was comparatively little recycling in the United States.
“We are used to sorting our garbage, our different types of recyclables and our ‘composting materials’,” said Hill-Olszewski. Local recycling has taken a step back in recent years as several regional freight forwarders eliminated glass recycling and reduced plastic recycling to grades # 1 and # 2. Hill-Oszewski and other members of the Murrysville Export Rotary Club hope to create greater awareness of the amount of waste that is created each day and what can be done to end the plastic soup.
“Plastic soup” is a reference to the thousands of tons of plastic that land on local, regional and ultimately international waterways. Some of it ends up in massive floating piles of rubbish in the middle of the world’s oceans. Some of it breaks up into smaller pieces and is consumed by animals. This is one of several ways it gets into the human food chain.
The End Plastic Soup initiative was launched in 2017 in the Netherlands, where Rotary chairpersons raised awareness of the problem and eventually organized volunteers to fish plastic trash from Amsterdam’s canals.
With 1.2 million Rotarians around the world, such small environmental actions can have real impact.
Rotarian Ellen Cruse is hoping so, and the Murrysville Export Club is launched with an advertising campaign.
“Our first jump is an arts competition for fourth and fifth grade students at Franklin Regional School and the Mother of Sorrows School,” said Cruse. “Entries are due April 12th, and we plan to take the top 12 and create a calendar to be sold as a fundraiser.”
The fundraiser will be used for local End Plastic Soup initiatives such as an exhibition in the fully booked store in the Blue Spruce Shoppes and the creation of kits to reduce single-use plastics. The kits come with a reusable shopping bag, water bottle, straw and cutlery.
“Even if we sell the kits for a dollar above our cost, it’s worth getting people to think,” said Cruse.
“It’s a mentality because it seems the more you try, the more plastic you come across,” she said.
For Cruse, this means making a conscious decision to reduce the amount of plastic she uses.
“It’s not just ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’, it’s ‘Refuse’,” said Cruse. “We don’t think about how often we take a piece of plastic that is just thrown away.”
The club plans to have a presence and information about the initiative at spring and summer community events, and committee members such as Cruse and Hill-Olszewski are scheduling appointments for the neighborhood clean-up, especially World Cleanup Day on June 3rd.
“It’s important to our children and grandchildren,” said Hill-Olszewski. “The next generation will have to live with it.”
More information is available at EndPlasticSoup.org.
Patrick Varine is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected], or on Twitter.