Local leaders discuss ‘The Story of Plastic’

Local leaders discussed "The Story of Plastic" on a Zoom meeting.

Local leaders and organizations held a virtual discussion about “The Story of Plastic,” a new documentary about plastic pollution and the ripple effect it creates around the world.

“It’s all about justice, whether it be social justice, racial justice, economic justice or environmental justice,” said Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, one of several panelists who participated in a Zoom meeting about the film on June 4.

The movie debuted in April, and has been made available to community groups who want to host virtual screenings. Oceana and the Surfrider Foundation of San Diego County were among the organizations who sponsored a screening from June 1-4 leading up to the panel discussion.

Levin said his youth in Southern California made him more aware of the issues involving plastic pollution.

“My concern has only grown in my adult life,” he said, adding that it’s critical to act before we cause irreversible damage to the earth, if we haven’t already.

“The Story of Plastic” covers the proliferation of single-use plastic that accumulates in large quantities, and sometimes inundates impoverished communities in other countries where it is eventually shipped after being recycled. From there, it can be challenging to process the recycled materials and find a new use for it.

“This really opened my eyes to a lot of challenges,” said Jessica Waite, owner of The Plot, a zero-waste restaurant in Oceanside.

Plastic that ends up in the ocean often breaks down and, in some cases, gets consumed by sea creatures, including the fish that humans eventually eat. One study by Science Advances found that only about 9% of plastic is recycled.

Many businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants, as well as local governments have tried to help solve the problem by banning single-use plastic items such as straws.

Other panelists included Carlsbad City Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel and Michael Doshi, who is part of the advocacy organization Algalita, which was featured in the film. The discussion was moderated by Brady Bradshaw, a campaign organizer for Oceana.

The panel discussion also included acknowledgements of the nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Alex Ferron, a member of the Surfrider Foundation’s executive committee, said it’s still important to address the environmental challenges the world faces.

“It would be a disservice for us to put our efforts completely on hold when this is something that affects everybody,” she said.