Portsmouth resident Lisa Wagenbach will present information to the Middletown Town Council at Monday's meeting on a topic that she says is essential to Middletown’s most important asset, its beaches. She will explain how single use plastics such as to-go containers and plastic bags are destroying the coastlines.
“Billions of plastic bags are used every year by Americans," Wagenbach said. "These sometimes end up in the trash or in recycling efforts but terribly often they end up as eyesores along the roads, stuck in trees and low growing growth, on beaches and in the ocean. They also end up clogging sewer and public works systems costing taxpayers millions.”
Wagenbach grew up surfing on the island and said that she has watched the trash levels grow on the coastlines and in its waters. Almost six years ago she joined up with the volunteer organizations Surfriders Foundation Rhode Island Chapter and Clean Ocean Access.
“I thought, ‘yes, finally there are organizations that are seeing all this annoying trash on the beach and are trying to do something about it’,” she said.
Surfriders Foundation is an international foundation dedicated to the health, protection and access of our world’s coastlines and oceans, Wagenbach explained. Clean Ocean Access, founded by Newport resident David McLaughlin, conducts weekly testing of the waters and organizes beach clean-up events on the island.
“World War II was won without plastic,” Wagenbac pointed out. “Look what has happen in the last 67 years.”
For the last several years, she had reached out to local businesses and through education and guidance, has worked to move them away from single use plastic containers.
So far, she has convinced , and to voluntarily reduce their use of plastics. In Portsmouth, she has been working with to make incremental changes towards the elimination of single use plastics.
Eventually, she would like to influence ordinances to limit single use plastics on Aquidneck Island. Wagenbach said that is a future-state goal, and for now she will focus on educating residents, businesses and local government.
“We are not looking to create laws right now, we are looking to educate,” she clarified.
By presenting to the Middletown Town Council, she hopes to partner with them to find effective ways to decrease or abolish the single-use plastic bag. She explained Middletown was selected as the first town in Rhode Island to approach, because of the town’s appreciation for its beaches.
“All towns should remember our state nickname, The Ocean State,"Wagenbach said. She hopes that Rhode Island residents will agree that with that nickname, we should provide the standard and leadership on beach and ocean related policies.
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