Citizens’ group fights to reduce single-use plastics.
The straw on your table at the restaurant can get to the ocean. Plastics are light and blow away easily, off a garbage truck or even away from the landfill before being covered. But, of course, the biggest source of plastic ending up in nature is littering. Plastic is blown to a canal, then to a river and out to the ocean.
Straws have received a lot of “hoopla” lately, said Suzanne Scheiber, of Dream Green Volusia, because they can’t be recycled, but there many other single-use products that cause problems in the environment.
Dream Green Volusia is a grassroots, citizens group that works on environmental issues through education and advocacy throughout the county. Scheiber, of Ormond Beach, made a presentation along with co-member Becca Chaffee on Feb. 22 at the Environmental Discovery Center on Division Avenue in Central Park.
Studies are currently being done to assess the effect of discarded plastic on the food supply. For example, plastic eventually breaks down to microplastic, which can be ingested by fish.
“The effect on the food chain is unknown,” Scheiber said.
Ormond Beach City Commissioners discussed banning plastic items, such as straws, last year. When finally approved, the decision was to make usage of straws voluntary on the part of restaurants.
“I was disappointed in the lackluster result at the end,” Chaffee said before the meeting.
One program to reduce plastic by Dream Green Volusia is their Business Recognition Program, in which they award gold or silver ratings for reduction of single-use plastics. The businesses receive stickers and are promoted on social media. Two Ormond Beach restaurants with gold ratings are Frappes Italian Grille and 63 Sovereign, both on West Granada Boulevard.
Scheiber said people should encourage restaurants to get away from single-use products such as plastic or Styrofoam cups and carryout containers and move toward biodegradable items, because they listen to their customers.
Recent successes include the introduction of biodegradable food trays in Flagler County and Osceola Elementary in Ormond Beach, which also changed the way food is served to use much less plastic.
Volusia County Schools use 5.5 million Styrofoam trays a year, and the system is considering a countywide program, Scheiber said.
Asked why schools didn’t return to washing trays and other items, Scheiber said they took out their dishwashers long ago. Also, water has become an important commodity.
Scheiber and Chaffee would like Volusia County to become proactive in conservation, such as building water bottle filling stations around the county, where people can fill up reusable water bottles, rather than use plastic bottles. Scheiber pointed out the case of Flint, Michigan, where at first the city was shipping in plastic water bottles because the water supply was bad. The disposal of water bottles became a bigger problem, so they built the water filling stations.
Chaffee said her family buys water in large bottles, so then can fill up their reusable bottles.
They would also like to encourage the county to acquire a commercial composter, so that more carryout food packages and even food scraps can be composted.
Dream Green Volusia feels it’s important to continue Volusia Forever and ECHO, which may be on the ballot next year, depending on decisions by the County Council. Volusia Forever provides funds to preserve natural spaces, and ECHO funds things such as the Environmental Discovery Center, where people learn the importance of environmental protection.
Find Dream Green Volusia on Facebook.
“The effect on the food chain is unknown.”
SUZANNE SCHEIBER, on plastic in the ocean