PORTLAND -- As the problem of plastic in the world’s oceans and its impact on marine wildlife has gained more attention in recent years, Oregonians from different backgrounds have acted to tackle the problem. Today, Environment Oregon launched, “Oregonians Against Waste,” an online project to share the stories of these activists, elected officials, business owners, academics, and artists.
“It’s inspiring to see Oregonians using public policy, art, research and innovation to solve the problem of plastic waste,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, State Director of Environment Oregon. “This project represents what’s best about Oregon—people working to make our state and the world a better, more beautiful place.”
Over decades, people have dumped millions of tons of plastic and other trash into the Pacific Ocean, creating an environmental disaster for wildlife. Scientists have found plastic fragments in hundreds of species, including 86 percent of all sea turtle species, 44 percent of all seabird species, and 43 percent of all marine mammal species. Plastic and other marine debris kills millions of these animals every year.
Throughout Oregon, elected officials at all levels of government have been working to address this problem. Whether through local bans on plastic bags, statewide bans on polystyrene in schools, or a federal bill to clean up ocean debris, public policy has been an important driving force in reducing and cleaning up plastic waste.
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici recently championed the “Save Our Seas Act,” which passed the House of Representatives unanimously in July 2018. This bill helps local communities and states remove garbage and debris from the ocean and shores.
“Oregon’s pristine and rugged coast is one of the things that makes our state special,” said Congresswoman Bonamici. “Marine debris endangers marine life and habitat and harms our coastal economies. I was thrilled to help pass the bipartisan Save Our Seas Act, which I co-sponsored, to strengthen the federal response to marine debris and help coastal communities address this problem. We all must do more to keep trash - especially plastic - out of our oceans and off of our coast.”
Not surprisingly, some of Oregon’s artists have devised a creative way to address the problem. They use marine debris in their creations. That not only helps keep the beaches clean, but it also helps educate people about the issue of plastics in the ocean. For example, Pooka Rice, the Outreach Coordinator with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, has an educational art project called “Trash Talk” that includes different types of handmade jewelry, from sea horse earrings to sea star necklaces, all made from debris picked up off the beach surrounding Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast.
“It’s not a hopeless situation, we just need to shift how we live,” said Rice. “By seeing the plastic as material for art and applying value to it we can encourage others to look at the situation differently and inspire them to put it to use.”
Environment Oregon launched “Oregonians Against Waste” in the hopes that it will inspire other Oregonians to learn more about plastic pollution in the ocean and then act to prevent it.
“Whether it’s buying less single-use plastic, making your voice heard with your elected officials or dedicating your creative talents to the cause, it makes a difference,” said Meiffren-Swango. “With an issue this huge and important, everyone has their part to play.”
Environment Oregon is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.