SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Environmental Commission, South Orange Green Team and the South Orange Village Center Alliance have partnered to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics in the town. During the past year, these groups worked with local businesses to identify alternatives to single-use plastic takeout containers. To take it a step further and encourage all residents, the team created the “SO Not Plastic” campaign — the challenge to live free of single-use plastics for one week, from Sept. 4 through 11.
The idea is simple: Citizens will be challenged to stop using single-use plastics at home, school and work for one week. That means foregoing single-use plastic shopping bags, water bottles, straws, sandwich bags, takeout containers, beverage cups, plastic utensils, plastic wraps, coffee “pods,” juice pouches, single-size snack bags and other disposable plastics.
“These items have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, to the point that we use them, and dispose of them, without ever thinking about it,” said the Environmental Commission’s Patricia Canning, who is leading the initiative.
“These plastics are manufactured from fossil fuels and are non-biodegradable, which means they will exist forever in landfills, soil and our waterways and oceans. If they are incinerated — Essex County’s trash is — the chemicals released are highly toxic pollutants,” Environmental Commission Chairman James McGowan said, adding that, in addition to creating excess waste, chemicals in plastics have now been proven to have adverse impacts on human health.
To promote the “SO Not Plastic” campaign a public service announcement has been produced by Columbia High School student Ben Krueger. The PSA has been shown before the summer movies at Floods Hill and can be found on the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SONotPlastic/. Linda Thibodeau, a local graphic designer, has created graphics and social media, to help residents break the single-use plastic habit. The team also intends to educate the public about sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics so that people can forego disposables or choose alternative products whenever possible. Ben Salmon from Kitchen a la Mode has outlined alternatives that the team will promote leading up to the week of SO Not Plastic. These choices can be implemented at home, school or work, as well as during leisure and recreation.
Participants are encouraged to sign a pledge, found on the campaign’s Facebook page, and post their successes and failures as well as “hacks and facts” in social media with the hashtag #sonotplastic throughout the week.
“Consumers send a strong message every day with the dollars they spend,” Canning said.
“We each have the power to effect tremendous change,” Village Trustee Walter Clarke said.. “We hope this challenge will empower people to make every day choices that benefit the environment and their own health. There is even an added benefit of saving money.”