Flying isn’t my best skillset – today’s proof is written with love… Mahalo Hawaiian Airlines

There are things that happen on the adventure and then there are things that happen and nothing can be done.  The last 24 hours is a perfect example of this.  It all started last night, when I was sitting down to book check in to my flight to leave on the next leg of my flight…. and then it happens – I realize that my inter island flight was booked 24 hours to soon and now I have to get a new ticket.  In a panic, I call the Hawaiian Airlines help desk and ask to speak to a person.  Unfortunately, during my first call, I got disconnected.  After taking a few to slow down mentally, I try again.

This time I speak to a travel agent and explain my circumstances, including the fact that i have an international connecting flight that departs at 4:30 pm.  We examine prices and determine that with a ticket change and the balance difference, my First Class flight will be about $100 more.  Since this was my mistake, I accept responsibility and pay for a new ticket; I mean it’s not like I could say no – I’m on a mission here!  After a happy dance and a few waves of anxiety I hurriedly process my check in using cut and paste features amid the packing and re positioning of my goods in their various bags.  Oh the happy life for me…

Until the good byes and thank you’s are complete and I’m all alone at the Lihue Airport… waiting standby to leave the island on a beautiful Friday morning because all flights are booked solid.  I don’t know about waiting for a standby fight when you’re on an island, headed to another island – to catch the only fight to another island where flights are only every few days…  but I’m grateful to be on the inside, and to be able to get past security into the terminal situation.  Then at least I can ask more questions and see what options might be available to me…

And true their promise, the staff at Hawaiian Airlines share the Aloha spirit with me today, even if it came at a price.  After getting to my gate I met Gabriel, a true Aloha Ambassador!  She explained to me that all flights were booked all morning and the likelihood of getting to Pago Pago today was kind of slim… as she continued to search her mighty computer Gabriel found one last ray oh hope for me – a seat became open on an island hopping plane!  But wait, there’s always bad news with these things, another change fee!  With apologies she explained the situation and what would be required of me.  Why didn’t my original ticket fly on the 11th?  I still don’t know… I’m even more baffled by the idea that I explained my situation to the gal on the phone last night and I still ended up with an inter island ticket that departed after my international flight.  Gabriel did go out of her way for me though, she made sure that my bags didn’t get sent to baggage claim on the other side of security.  They will be waiting for me in American Samoa and I’ll have time to breathe and meditate on gratitude in the mean time.  The mission of cleaning up messes made by others will be filled with opposition and hurdles.  Today I have gratitude for many things, including that this will work out in the end.  Some lessons come at a bigger price than others, today’s cost me about $175, but in a take action world – money always greases the wheels it seems.  So does kindness and humility.  Had I been rude, panicky, or otherwise unkind – things may not have turned out the same, and I could have been stuck on an island on the otherside of the world, not able to get where I needed to be.
And who knows better than me how times of trial and fire-  purify, cleanse and awaken.
So for now, this is my story on this leg of the adventure…

What I know is that right now I am going to get on an airplane, I’m leaving for American Samoa this afternoon!

It’s all about the MRF (merf) unit, A look at the potential growth of recycling in Kauai, HI.

One of the blessings of this trip is being able to have educated conversations with one of the people responsible for recycling programs out here in Hawaii.  It’s been a great warm up on this journey to reengage in the discussions of waste management that I enjoyed in the classes and interviews leading up to my graduation from Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO.  In my conversations and visual touring of places around the island of Kauai, there have been several things that point in one direction – to the effective capture and separation of consumed materials as a key factor holding back increased recycling rates.  This is a bold statement, and one many readers won’t understand off the bat; so let’s take a minute to break this down.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County.  Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County. Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

One of the first things I recognized about being in Hawaii is that the types of recycling accepted is far out of proportion to what I am currently accustomed to. In the majority of North America, recycling systems accept the majority of plastics, including Styrofoam products.  The reason for this ties into several global factors.  The first is a concern about the value of shipping things in adequate quantity.  When a manufacturer or point of sale location orders product, they generally follow principles of economics where the products will be delivered ‘on time’; or when they will be needed for the purpose of the specific operation.  These quantities are required to fill demand, in this case the second concern – sufficient quantities of source separated product.  For post-consumer plastics there are many aspects of the brokerage requirements, including minimum packaging requirements, generally at minimum – one shipping container of source separated product.  This requirement is the same in Denver as it is in Kauai.

I have been pleased with the interaction I have been able to have with the Kauai Solid Waste Management representatives and the level of presence they have attained here in Kauai.  I have found many aspects of the recycling program quite interesting.  The first is that there is a Bottle Bill in place, and actually it is the last one passed in the US, “celebrating over 6.6 billion containers in the last decade”, according to the official government’s info website.  That’s a lot of plastic!

In addition to the idea that only #1 and #2 plastics are currently processed through a recycling stream,  at the county’s government building in Lihue, HI for example there are 4 separate recycling containers! They are for: a) 1 and 2 plastics only (no black plastic allowed), Glass and Aluminum, Cardboard, and Steele.  This system is designed to allow members of the community access to drop of materials should they so decide.  For businesses, this type of separation will prove cumbersome.  In order to increase the overall effectiveness of closing the loop between purchase and capture of consumable packaging single stream recycling will have to become available for this island nation.

For many, the culture of recycling on the island is becoming one that has the look and feel of a natural process.  Throughout the communities are recycling drop of stations where HI5 and other materials can be dropped off.  There are accessible containers in many parts of the community and overall the towns I have been to all have minimum micro trash issues.  It may be due to the lack of single stream systems, but I have noticed that the majority of business spaces do not have public recycling.  Businesses like the ABC Stores, banks and restaurants may have in house systems for their employees to use in the back of the house, but the access to the common public is sorely lacking.  Municipalities will find this struggle to be one that cannot be won unless the process is easy to manage – like single stream recycling offers.

In order to build this type of facility, there are going to be many steps to the process. Fortunately for the citizens, many steps of the process are well under way.  To have a closed community with both a plastic bag ban and a bottle bill is a wonderful thing to find.  Unfortunately there are battles that still have to be fought.  Corporations seeking to sell mass incineration systems regularly press municipalities attempting to convince government officials that purchasing this incineration management system is the solution to their problems.  We already know that burning anything leads to excess greenhouse gasses, something that is bad.  ( If you want to know more – check this page out – it’s great for your whole family!)

For more information on recycling programs in Kauaii, HI please check out this awesome page!

Dead white corral and no sea shells – a first observation

On September 6, 2015 I left for the “other side of the world”, to places I have never been but have read about in books and online.  The anxiety and angst of leaving the comforts of home, exhaustion from spending the last week packing over and over again, and the stresses of being in a horrible automobile accident where the at fault party could have very well lost his life had all taken a toll on me, but life and time move forward.  The process of experiencing change is very important to me.  To be in the midst of changes in the global processes means that the battlefront is exactly where you and I are at this moment in time.  According to many including 5 Gyres, our first challenge is to REDUCE the amount of manufactured goods we consume on a daily basis.  Here are some important words from “The Dude” – Jeff Bridges about this specific issue via his partnership with the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Having arrived on the island of Oahu and have been on the island for 24 hours, I have had the pleasure of touring the island, seeing many beautiful locations.  The beaches we swam in were beautiful, but turbid (cloudy/murky)   from recent tropical storms and hurricanes that have been traveling through to Pacific Ocean.  There were not large quantities of plastics or any waste on the beaches I went to.  Much of the beach had storm debris and dead corral that has come in from the storms that have been occurring. Based on tidal patterns, the north shore of Kauai is relatively immune from ocean plastic.  Today I anticipate going to see some of those beaches.  I was quite intrigued to learn about the hurricanes and had to do some research of my own this morning.  This brief article by Mother Jones will provide some greater insight to both the weather and an some of the leading agencies indicating why this trend will continue to grow. In addition to going swimming and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean, we took a tour of some of the places on the North Shore like animal sanctuaries, recycling drop off locations including places where Jurassic Park was filmed like this scene!

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the island’s civil servants, one whom is responsible for much of the island’s recycling efforts.  With effective recycling at about 40%, with directional movement towards 70% – I enjoyed an insightful, and very tired, conversation about the issues and struggles facing creating regulations to require effective solutions that are integrated into all parts of culture.  Many of the classroom discussions from the last 2 years have popped into my head over this time.  The visits and interviews with the operators of MRF units in Denver like that of Alpine Waste.  MRF Units are where single stream recycling occurs.  This system is not currently available on most islands, but is a type of facility that more and more communities are developing, as the greater demands for reclaiming natural goods instead of filling landfills.  Here is a quick video about how these units work.

As I awoke today, I spent some early morning time to meditate on the things I have experienced.  The strongest of all yesterday’s activities was the fact that while swimming and snorkeling, I recognized lots of bleached, dead corral in the water and on the beach.  This occurs when the acidity of the water, CO2 concentrations and other factors cause corral reefs to die.  In addition to the dead corral, I noticed the lack of sea shells.  We did find 3 yesterday, ones that were on the inland side of the beach, at the farthest reaches where waters could come ashore.  The real and lasting impact of carbon emissions, waste management and agricultural processes and tourism are visible already, and the vision of the dead corral awakens me.

Heading out on a journey of Plastic Pollution, leaving the comforts of 1st world America.

In less than an hour I am leaving to face the adventure of a lifetime; one where I am leaving the comforts of first world ‘America’ where waste management infrastructure are something most people take for granted; and I am headed out to sea, to fight plastic pollution through direct mitigation efforts in the Asia Pacific.  Today as I awake, preparing to spend time with family and friends the anxiety is beginning to set in.  The idea of traveling 1/2 way around the world is a little daunting to be honest.  It’s also a little daunting for many others to process as well.  Why would some “white American” raised in a comfortable situation leave the comforts of the world to go clean trash on the other side of the planet?

We as a society tend to have an overall awe for first responders.  Tragedy tends to bring out the best in all people.  While we see a paramedic rushing to the scene of an accident, or a firefighter running into a burning building or forest there is a huge awe for those who race to the scene.  There are even more people who come into play when we look at events like tornadoes or hurricanes.  These massive forces have the ability to wipe out everything in their pathway and when it comes to populated ares, the ability to impact large quantities of humans as well.  Where larger catastrophes come into play there are always stories of the fine people who showed courage and strength in these situations.  Generally in the days following the storm, people show up to answer the immediate call.  There are needs like: finding survivors, picking up debris, and rebuilding.  Regardless of where in the world these things happen, calls for support draw out many who have the knowledge, skills or desires to be of service and help others in need.  For me, this is the most logical way to explain why I am going on this journey.

We are alive in a day and age where we are facing the largest natural disaster in the the span of humanity.  Plastic pollution is killing our planet.  Over the last week of August 2015, major news media began publishing stories acknowledging the work of scientists in London, Australia and the United States that was published roughly 8 weeks earlier.  Headlines like this one by National Geographic recognizes that the majority of sea life is already eating plastic and the quantities of oceanic life eating plastic will only continue to grow.   In past blogs I written about the Midway Atoll as an example of the impact plastic is having on the planet.   This plastic doesn’t natural come from the ocean either.  Most plastic is derived from the extreme processes involved in refining oil, and all plastic is essentially – OIL.

As one who was raised in Colonized North America I’ve always been interested in the ways we manage our waste.  Unlike the indigenous people who lived on this land, generally leaving no trace of waste behind, the populations of immigrants who have come or been raised on this land have not held the same cultural values on the natural and visual life found on our planet and in many ways have become unsustainable consumers of the oil and other resources buried deep inside.  In most cases, these resources are the foundation and focus of many corporations who’s sole focus is the development of corporate profits.  This process has brought you convoluted relationships of the mind and reality.  One key example of this is this video:
The reality of this trip is that we’ll never get ALL the trash out of the ocean.  However, in addition to reducing the amount of plastic that we consume the time has come to treat the at risk biospheres as disaster zones.  The natural life of many parts of our world are dying, specifically because of the plastic wastes we create.  From destroying virgin land to extract oil to the current situation where all forms of life, including humans, are consuming one of the permanent byproducts – plastic; it is time for some of us to mitigate our impacts.  Today I head out to answer that call.  I hope you will join me in the adventure.

CutThePlastic on GoFundMe –

For those of you who don’t know, my desire is to help solve the problems of existing plastic pollution in fragile biospheres.  Below you will find the intro My name is Brian and I’m a non traditional, first generation student graduating from Metropolitan State University in Dever, Colorado. on May 16th, 2015.  I’ve always had a passion for protecting natural wildlife from human pollution, spending many weekends as a child cleaning up roadways across southern Wisconsin.

As a former insurance agent, I learned about the plastic soup that has been forming in all the oceans of the world.   This ‘soup’ consists of plastic that has either been dumped as trash into the ocean, or has been carried into the ocean as a result of our on land littering practices.  I was so moved by the results of this trash that I moved to Coloraodo to study water.

My biggest passion in the world is to work on mitigation efforts from the impacts of plastic pollution in our oceans.   Annually, over 8 million tonnes of plastic are added to the quantity of pollution in our oceans.  This plastic breaks down in the sun and water, leaching plasticizers and other toxins into the water while the plastic breaks into smaller pieces of itself.

These smaller pieces of plastic are interpreted as food for animal life like turtles, fish and birds.  In some places this pollution is so bad that by one year old birds can have a 98% chance of being fed plastic by their parents.   Scientist generally agree that there are two primary ways to solve this problem: 1) by eliminating sources of pollution while 2) cleaning the beaches and biospheres where the plastics accumulate.

Currently, I am talking to agencies to partner with efforts that focus on long term sustainable solutions that include recycling the plastics that are collected.  One of the main difficulties in this is ensuring that there are systems to sort and then process plastics for shipping.  One of the reasons this can be difficult is securing relationships to process plastics is quite difficult.  One of my main goals to is to work with Plastic to Oil recyclers to provide source stock, or to bring these technologies to the site of the pollution.

I am asking for 10,000 as a start for a simple reason.  The round trip cost to get to Guam or American Somoa is about $3,000.  To equip myself with the proper gear to live on a beach is about another $2,500 not counting food expenses.  Additionally payments for my student loans for 6 months will be an extra $1,000.   I’ve calculated that with local relationships; food and other expenses for a 6 month time period, including communications  to update my progress will run about $4,000.

If I meet my initial goal, I would like to raise additional funds to buy and ship equipment to allow me to convert the plastics to oil products that can be sold as a commodity.  With this machinery, we could establish local employment options – creating an income stream for indigenous communities needing to solve real and local problems.   This equipment will run in the 10’s of thousands of dollars, so this is no small task.  Of course in order to save our planet from ourselves, we have to start somewhere!
To donate funds – click here

The Miracle of Seeds


As we approach the March Against Monsanto globally, it’s important to spread the knowledge of seeds, bees and the processes of nature in our daily lives. I hope you enjoy this blog by Shawndra Miller!

Originally posted on Shawndra Miller:

I’ve been thinking about how tenacious life is, encapsulated in a tiny seed. Some seeds I plant, but others sprout all on their own.

I’m probably the only person on my block who gives a cheer when she sees these coming up.

Lamb's quarters Lamb’s quarters

These are lamb’s quarters, considered a weed, but deliberately planted two years ago in my garden. This is the second year they will have reseeded, and I can’t wait to taste them again when they get a little bigger. (They’re terrific fried crispy in my cast-iron skillet, with a couple eggs cracked over them. And incredibly energizing, as all edible weeds are.)

Here is part of another patch of self-sowing plants that are on their third (or fourth?) year of growing freely in my garden: arugula.

Arugula volunteers in leaf mulch Arugula “volunteers” in leaf mulch

I wasn’t sure they would come up this year because I mulched so heavily last…

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HB 15-1144 – Plastic Microbead Legislation – Did Colorado add Greenwashing to the list of legislative priorities?

Today Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 15-1144 a ban on solid synthetic microbeads added to cosmetic materials like face scrubs and body washes!  This bill is designed to keep tiny particles of plastic out of our waterways and local biospheres because of the negative impacts of plastic in these locations.   Colorado joins a variety of states, the first being Illinois, who are banning these microbeads.  In Illinois, efforts to introduce scientific legislation was attempted by members of the 5 Gyres Institute and the Ban the Bead Campaign.
Scientifically there are two primary problems with microbeads in our waters.  The first issue is that plastics are made with binding agents that  seep into the water when issues where the plastics leach chemicals into the water impacting the quality and purity of water.   The second issue is that these plastics are often viewed as food and are then consumed by insects and fish where two serious impacts occur.  Since plastic does not get digested by animals it accumulates in their bellies, filling up space for nutrient providing foods.  This accumulation causes a lack of space for real consumable, nutrient rich materials while leaching into the body of the animal that has consumed it.

Banning microbeads is a noble and valuable activity that should push regulations on corporations and manufacturers to be accountable and responsible for the materials they create and the environmental damage they do.  The scientific facts speak for themselves, microplastic is bad for the environment.  The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership dedicated the first three pages of it’s Fall 2014 newsletter exclusively to this topic.

The unfortunate truth is that the corporate lobby built a loophole into the rules they are placing upon themselves.  They introduced the legal terms of “Solid Synthetics” and “Nonbiodegradeable” as the specific type of plastic that would be banned.  There is scientific concern about this verbiage based on the fact that truly biodegradable plastic must have microbial breakdown.  This breakdown is only found in commercial or “hot compost” facilities.  In their 2015 publication in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, Michigan State University student’s published a study concluding:

“anaerobic and aerobic biodegradation are not recommended as feasible disposal routes for nonbiodegradable plastics containing any of the five tested biodegradation-promoting additives.” (Selke et all – 2015)

There are dozens of journal articles and news pieces that support this thought process leading educated consumers to understand that purported bioplastics are still going to enter our waters, causing deadly toxins to enter Colorado waters, causing the same concerns for bioaccumulation that  has proven to exist in our waters.  As this piece by Mother Jones from 2009 explains; “Real biodegradable plastic should be sent to a commercial composting facility, where it will spend its final days being eaten by microbes. But here’s the catch: In 2007, only 42 communities nationwide offered compost collection. (Seventeen were in California.) And though some biodegradable plastics can be recycled, no curbside recycling program will take them.”
The unfortunate part in the current movement to ban microbeads is that this effort is being led by corporations who wish to regulate themselves so they have the control and upper hand.  In an earlier post, I commented on how Johnson and Johnson, as well as other entities showed up to Colorado House Committee Meetings to introduce soft legislation that would offer a consistent level of legislation they could manipulate in order to have “consistent legislation”.   These organizations are already phasing out these plastics from their products., but want to allow for the weakest levels of legislation to be enacted.   This process began with Unilever in 2012 and has gained momentum as you can read about in this post on Beat The Microbead’s page.

This is exactly what Director of the 5 Gyres Institue’s predicted would happen in a 2014 EcoWatch Article stating “According to Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres Institute, plastics industry lobbyists worked hard to block it, wanting legislation more like the far from ideal bill that passed in Illinois. The Ilinois bill leaves a loophole for plastic, like Polylactic Acid (PLA) the so-called biodegradable plastic that corn cups are made of. Unfortunately, PLA doesn’t biodegrade in the environment, it requires an industrial composting facility.”

And this is what has happened here in the state of Colorado.  Colorado HB-15-1144 bill specifically states:.


This is exactly the actions that have been predicted by many environmentalist groups, that the efforts of the science community to curtail the effects of microplastics would be mitigated by corporations who originally fought microbead legislation so they would have the opportunity to craft and create looser regulations that would present “Greenwashed” material information that would weaken future efforts to protect our water.  Colorado is known for being a state that has fought hard to protect our waters and this bill is an unfortunate example.

The reason is very simple.  Biodegradeable plastics have not been proven to biodegrade in cold water settings.  According to Brenda Platt, coordinator for Sustainable Plastics Project:

  “Truly biodegradable plastics are plastics that can decompose into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass via microbial assimilation (the enzymatic action of microorganism). To be considered biodegradable, this decomposition has to be measured by standardized tests, and take place within a specified time period, which vary according to the “disposal” method chosen. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has created definitions on what constitutes biodegradability in various disposal environments.”

What this boils down to is sadly is that  that Colorado’s Microbead ban, HB 15-1144 is a piece of greenwashing legislation presented by corporations who are willingly removing certain types of plastics from their products – ones they already agree to take out, while  having consent to pollute in a slightly different way that still has negative impacts on our environment. The bill, is a bill with solid foundations.  Unfortunately, it happened so fast that even those individuals in the community that tried reaching out to the bills writers didn’t get an effective chance to effectively communicate the scientific realities major corporations were able to step around in the writing of this bill.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of solutions that already exist!  Besides avoiding purchasing products that already include microplastic, consumers are advised to look for exfoliating products that include natural or real plant products that are effective exfolliants.  Common materials include oatmeal, apricot or peach pits and walnut shells.  These products are already commonly found in supermarket shelves.

How I want to change the world in 500 words.

As a non traditional student, I found myself returning to school after a decade being a health insurance agent.  My passion for our planet re-awoke while attending classes to complete my associates degree.  At first I learned about the Pacific Gyre, an oceanic current that is loaded with plastic that not only accumulates within the middle of it’s spiral current; but also transports this debris onto land masses where it accumulates and increases the levels of negative impact.  The primary two concerns are direct consumption of the plastic by animals, and the environmental toxicity that forms due to chemical leaching into the water.   Currently humanity is dumping over 8 million tons of plastic into the ocean annually.  Scientific studies and photographic evidence is proving that life from mites and ticks to whales and birds are consuming; and dying; from directly consuming this material.  Additionally, science is proving that these plastics are recyclable, even though they have been exposed to ocean waters for years at a time.  The recycling can be done in two specific ways, the first being using the plastics as a partial blend for new plastic products.  Additionally, Pyrolysis is a chemical melting process that returns the plastics to a synthetic oil that can be used to reclaim many of the natural resources used to originally create the plastics, while also capturing any natural gasses.

Due to the multifaceted nature of the environmental impact of these materials are having on our planet, remediation plans must be created and acted upon.  It is well known that areas around the globe are feeling the impact of these materials when they are disguarded into the environment.  My plan is to actively clean up areas of the world where these plastics find there way on shore.  By developing recycling plans that connect local oceanic communities to the plastic pyrolysis and recycling factories that will effectively re-purpose the natural materials that have already been extracted from the planet.  These plastics can be sold to recyclers, providing an income stream for those that work to protect the quality of their natural communities while protecting a multitude of forms of life in the process.

My goals after graduation are to leave the United States and spend time directly working with organizations like The Plastic Bank in Peru who work with local communities to develop the skills needed to create successful remediation programs.  By working directly to clean up this trash while experiencing how community programs that make a difference operate; I will gain valuable experience. I then expect to start a non profit that will fund efforts to keep plastic debris out of our oceans while providing educational connectivity to environmental groups like Earth Force, a grade school education program that teaches students about their connection to the planet.  My overall goal is to allow for a network of remediation efforts to be crated so that existing plastic operations will have sufficient waste plastics and reformulated oils to impact the demand for extracted natural resources.

2015 Colorado legislation: HB15-1144 (Prohibit Plastic Microbeads Personal Care Products) moves out of committee


Here’s another article about Colorado’s HB 15-1144 on Micro Plastics Pollution. I think there are several concerns not addressed in this article, including the fact that the exact verbiage as introduced was written by corporations who have a specific agenda on what types of plastics are permitted to be continued to be placed. However, this activist has been bringing topics like this up in Colorado since 2012.

Originally posted on Coyote Gulch:

Polypropylene microbeads via CBS Chicago Polypropylene microbeads via CBS Chicago (Theresa Marchetta, Sandra Barry):

A bill that would ban the production, sale, and promotion of any personal care product containing microbeads moved forward Tuesday at the State Capitol.

State Representative Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield) and State Senator Nancy Todd (D-Aurora) introduced HB15-1144, which would be implemented over several years to take full effect in 2020, with penalties for violations as high as $10,000.

The House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee, which Primavera chairs, voted Tuesday afternoon to approve the bill.

In May 2014, the CALL7 Investigators were first to expose concerns over microbeads in Colorado water. That investigation confirmed the plastic particles — which are found in some toothpastes, face washes, body washes, shampoos, eyeliners, lip glosses and deodorants — had made their way through state filtration systems and into the South Platte River. The CALL7 Investigators sent water samples…

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Colorado introduces Microbead Legislation HB 15-1144

Plastic pollution is a growing global concern that continues to draw attention from around the world.  One of the greatest reasons plastic pollution attracts so much attention is that it can literally take hundreds of years, even thousands of years to break down.  Over the years many scientific organizations have examined the impacts of plastic pollution on our waters and the life within.  These studies have covered everything from the impacts of ingested plastics on fish to how plastics leach chemicals into our bodies like Bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor that has similar impacts to estrogen in both humans and animals.

One of the main reasons that our planet is filled with plastic is that there are minimal restrictions on a global level to regulate the recapture of plastics around the world.  In the United States, many states attempted to regulate the manufacture and recapture of used plastic bottles through the use of a legislative measure called a Bottle Bill.  These bottle bills required a deposit, or small fee, at the time of purchase.  The manufactures would then be held accountable to ensure that the materials The concept required the consumer to incur a financial liability in order to encourage the return of the empty packaging in order to receive the money back.  Many bottle bills were opposed by the manufactures, who gathered together to form the Beverage Consumers of America, a lobby organization who fought against end user responsibilities based on the premise that it would be to expensive to manage these materials.
In a general way, manufacturing companies are consistently known for their unwillingness to hold themselves liable for the impact of materials they sell once consumers have disposed of them.  This problem, when it comes to plastic, has become so great that some scientists like Dr Marcus Erickson of the 5 Gyres Oceanic institute have recently come to the understanding that there are more pieces of plastic in our oceans than stars in the sky.  Among the efforts of the 5 Gyres team, the effort to eliminate Plastic Microbeads has not been a short lived effort.  The first win was when the state of IL passed the first ever microbead legislation, banning plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products by 2017.

On Monday Febuary 9th, I learned that the State of Colorado would be presenting it’s first ever legislation on plastic microbeads.  Without any hesitation I knew I had to be there!  For the last 3 years all I have been talking about is plastic pollution across our planet and my personal actions have included eliminating the purchase of Bath and Body Works pump soaps, an item I had been handing out as presents to friends and family for years, simply because they contain plastic microbeads.   My investment in this topic has included presenting to the Colorado Water Board as they held open roundtables regarding the efforts of developing a State Water Plan, providing an opinion that microbeads should be banned as part of the state’s developing plan.

Going to the Colorado State Capitol in and of itself was quite an experience.  The building is beautiful and has an extensive history within, including being made of the only Red Marble known in the world, which comes from Bula, Colorado. I had little trouble find the room I was seeking, so many Sargent at Arms in their green jackets.  The capitol is a warm building and the basement room in which the house committee met had windows in which the sun warmed the room.  The environment was pleasant and by the time Representative Premavera was called in I was starting to get a feel for the procedures of the day.

The thing that shocked me most in her testimony and introduction of the bill was the fact that it was sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, a company that makes personal care products full of these plastics. I watched as a variety of preferred expert witnesses came forward representing various organizations like the Manufactures Association, the Denver Waste water District, Colorado Water Board, Johnson and Johnson and Cosmetic Producers Association.  As each came up they had brief prepared statements describing their support for the bill, and how they were actively looking for uniform laws across the states to make their jobs easier.  They justified the low levels of financial penalties, the timeline of delay and the specificity of limiting the use of plastics in their specific items.  Each was asked a few questions from varying  House representatives.  During the entire time I was taking notes on a copy of the written text of the bill I was able to scrounge up ( love those Sargent’s at Arms).

After the preferred testimonies, the floor was available to those who chose to sign up and do so.  I had shown up, having spoken about plastics and micobeads at many different events over the last 36 months, including roundtable meetings regarding Colorado’s State Water Plan.  I introduced myself and my position as a student at MSU Denver and as the senior club president of the Water Association of Student Stewards Urban Program.  I explained that I was there to testify on behalf of Water, yes that is what I said, I was there to represent myself on behalf of Water itself.  I did not have a prepared testimony, and I apologized to the representatives as I had received short notice on the presentation but was experienced in the topic.  I responded to the idea that this was a corporately sponsored bill, that there were no expert scientists presenting data on bio -accumulation of plastics, the resulting impacts to fish, hydro accumulation of other toxins that accumulate by attraction and a plethora of other factors that would surely solidify the import of their support.  I explained how the industry at one time was fighting these exact bills and were, quite honestly presenting a very soft version of legislature that allowed for future use of “biodegradable” plastics was an open loophole they had written in.  This loophole is dangerous because the same factors of leaching from unregulated plastic ingredients are already causing significant impact on our environment.  I made commentary on how the fines are minimal compared to profits available and how the IL state bill was significantly tougher on companies than the bill that was presented today.

In the end, I provided a rebuttal answer to each of the questions the preferred witnesses had not answered in a way that was as complete or full as I believed a scientist would have.  And at the end of the day, I testified on Colorado HB 15-1144 in the House Committee furthering my resume and experience as an authority on the topic.  In addition, I was able to make some network connections.  It was my first formal experience in front of a state house committee in the capitol, and the only way I could ask for a more gratifying one is if you act right now to pledge to eliminate microbeads from your consumer goods today.