“The Perils Of Plastic Pollution” On April 29

April 26, 2021

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] and the Bermuda College will an Eco Lunch & Learn series presentation entitled “The Perils Of Plastic Pollution” on Thursday [April 29].

A spokesperson said, “The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] and the Bermuda College are very pleased to announce the fourth in their virtual Eco Lunch & Learn series presentations on Thursday, April 29th, from 1:00 to 2:00pm.

“The topic is ‘The Perils of Plastic Pollution’ and will take a closeup look at plastics in Bermuda and the human and environmental costs associated with their use and disposal. The devastation caused by single-use plastics on marine environments and beaches around the world, as well as our health, can no longer be ignored. Collectively we need to reduce our dependence on these harmful materials and make conscious choices about the products we purchase.

“Thursday’s presentation will feature a panel of local experts and advocates, including Dr. Robbie Smith, Scientist & Curator of Bermuda’s Natural History Museum, Eugene Dean, Executive Director of Greenrock, Erich Hetzel, BEST Plastic Pollution Team Leader and Bermuda College student Zahria Furbert.

Eco Lunch & Learn Presentation Bermuda April 2021

“Dr. Robbie Smith, a Bermudian scientist, worked as a research assistant at BIOS [then BBSR] from 1979 to 1985. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Georgia in 1990, conducting research on Bermuda’s coral reefs. He returned to Bermuda in 1990 as a Faculty member at BIOS and set up the Benthic Ecology Research Programme, focusing on the impacts of the Tyne’s Bay incinerator and other projects on the ecology of Bermuda’s coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves. He also developed a series of coral-related projects in the Florida Keys.

“He became the Curator of the Bermuda Natural History Museum in 2009 and began research on Bermuda’s land snails, the impacts of lionfish, deep coral reefs, the Sargassum community and our bait fishes. He led a study of plastic marine debris, conducted by the Bermuda Marine Debris Taskforce, from 2010-2016.

“Using students and volunteers, the group, including Bermuda College, surveyed 4 beaches very frequently to assess how much plastic debris is stranding on our island. His talk will include his work with his research students on microplastics in the Sargasso Sea, in our inshore waters and its impacts on our marine life. He will also speak about the guiding principles of Single Use Plastic legislation.

“Eugene Dean, Executive Director of Greenrock, works to empower individuals and companies to do their part in making Bermuda socially, economically and environmentally more sustainable. Eugene acts on the belief that we are stewards of the earth and therefore responsible for ensuring that its resources are used wisely and sustained for future generations.

“Greenrock is involved in a number of initiatives including Corporate Commitments to Sustainability, Green Building Forum, initiated by Green Rock in 2009 and Earth Hour. The Green Bowl project and Hydration Water Stations were started with a view to reducing the use of one-use plastics.

“Having grown up in Bermuda, Erich Hetzel gained a passion for the environment. He has a Masters in Marine and Estuarine Environmental Science from The University of Maryland. His area of interest was related to marine toxicology. After working locally in the IT industry for many years, Erich is again working in the environmental field with Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] where he leads the Plastics Pollution Team as well as working with the Bermuda Audubon Society, where he assists with the Tern Recovery Programme.

“Zahria Furbert is a Bermuda College student obtaining her Associates in Art and Science. In Fall 2021 she hopes to pursue her Bachelors in Public Health and a minor in Environmental Science. From her research she would like to find a better understanding of the relationship of single-use plastic within the community. With the answers she hopes to find solutions that better fit the island. Zahria believes with our Bermudian lifestyle being community based, fixing an issue that is effecting us currently, and will get worse in the future, should motivate us. It’s the small changes that lead to better habits.”

Amy Harvey, the Earth and Environmental Science lecturer at the Bermuda College explained, “For the past decade my students and I have conducted numerous beach surveys in both the Fall and Winter months and discovered a similar story across both private and public beaches. It is the unfortunate story of plastic pollution and more specifically micro plastic pollution.

“There was a standout survey whereby in less than thirty minutes we collected over 2000 pieces of micro plastics. These tiny pieces of plastic cause immense harm to the health of marine organisms and ourselves. It is not a problem we can ignore as a community. It will take local and global initiatives to tackle it. Individual efforts will also be crucial. Reducing our dependence on single use plastics and seeking alternative options are simple first steps that everyone can do.”

“The timeline for the health impacts of the plastic chemicals, that we unknowingly consume on a daily basis, is much faster than we will experience from climate change. The most widely used single-use plastics in Bermuda are plastic shopping bags, drink bottles, takeout food containers, cups, straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates.

“The time for action is now. In the past few years, researchers have linked one chemical class associated with plastics called phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. Other chemicals found in plastics are also implicated in health effects.”

Jennifer Flood, BEST Education Team Leader added, “Plastic pollution stretches from the highest peaks to the depths of the ocean abysses; from city centres to isolated oceanic atolls; microplastics are found in the soil, air and waterways; large and small plastics are found in the intestines and organs of crippled, starved fish, oceanic mammals, birds and now in us! Evidence has been rapidly accumulating of the harm plastics, large and small, along with the chemicals used in them, have been doing to other animals throughout the planet. Research is now showing the alarming effects on human beings. Isn’t it time to end this love affair with the convenience of one-time, and other throwaway plastics, and to see them for what they really are?”

“The public are welcomed to join our virtual presentation. The presentation is free and requires no sign-up. The presentation will be followed by a lively Q and A. The audience is encouraged to submit their questions via the chat options on both YouTube and Facebook. Access the presentation on either facebook.com/TheBermudaCollege or The Bermuda College YouTube page, on the day, April 29th, at 1pm.”

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