Plastics and the chemicals involved in their manufacture are harming the environment and harming New Hampshire citizens. Plastic is a “forever” material, never fully deteriorating, but breaking down into microplastics and even smaller nanoplastics. These micro and nanoplastics are found in our soils/terrestrial ecosystems, our marine ecosystems, the air we breathe, and in human placentas, lung tissue, and cancer tissue specimens. (Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2020).
It is estimated that individuals may be ingesting a credit card’s equivalent of plastic (5 grams) each week (World Wildlife Fund International, 2019). While we await a comprehensive, evidence-based national approach that acknowledges and addresses the human, environmental, and economic costs of plastics, or a political environment in Concord that could establish state-wide legislation, local communities are left with the responsibility to take action.
Several of our New Hampshire legislators have worked tirelessly for more than 15 years to bring forward legislation to tackle the problem of plastic pollution in our state. Unfortunately, this important legislation has been tabled or voted down. The Ten Towns • Ten Actions Toolkit was developed as one way to show our legislators that they have the support of individual voters and municipalities, thus encouraging them to continue to propose legislation to address the serious plastic pollution problem.
One of the most promising, grassroots organizations to take on this challenge is the NH Network Plastics Working Group led by a group of volunteers who are educators, researchers, business and policy analysts, journalists, artists, community leaders, health professionals, and others from around New Hampshire.
The NH Network Plastics Working Group created the Ten Towns • Ten Actions campaign to inspire citizens around New Hampshire to implement collaborative solutions to reduce plastic waste and pollution in their communities. The campaign is based on success stories in Dover, Hopkinton, Cornish, Nelson, and Portsmouth with development support from Hayley Jones (now with Slingshot) formerly of Community Action Works, a group that helps organize community groups against environmental threats. Ten Towns • Ten Actions Resource Leaders have been identified in Bristol, Cornish, Dalton, Dover, Durham, Harrisville/Nelson, Hopkinton, Pittsfield, Portsmouth, and Somersworth. Join the NH Network Plastics Working Group.
The Ten Towns • Ten Actions Toolkit is a menu of concrete actions, ready-made templates, and technical support from volunteers, many of whom have already been successful in effecting change in their communities and are willing to help others rethink plastic. Working with community partners in libraries, schools, parks & recreation departments, solid waste facilities, grocery stores, and restaurants as well as sustainability committees and city/town administrators, volunteers collaborate to implement local policies and programs that prove New Hampshire towns and cities care about the environment and about addressing the problem of plastic pollution.
While efforts being made by towns and cities are innovative and educational, they are not a substitute for comprehensive, evidence-based laws and policies that protect public health, the environment, the economy, and our children's future in New Hampshire. We are working toward a just and zero-waste future!