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  • Susan Russell

Concerned about Plastic Waste? East Aurorans CAN do Something about it!

BYOC (Bring Your own Container): Look for the ACES sticker at Participating Businesses All over East Aurora, businesses are increasingly adopting environmentally responsible practices. ACES salutes them. The latest such practice is BYOC, a program designed and promoted by ACES that will reduce plastic waste at businesses that serve food. About a dozen restaurants have already signed up for BYOC, but all are welcome to join. If you have not yet been contacted, please sign up on the new ACES website, BYOC is part of ACES’ effort to encourage all citizens, churches, and other community organizations to think of ways they can use less throw-away plastic. Now, customers can bring their own containers to BYOC restaurants for both left-overs and carry-out. (Per NYS Health Department rules, restaurant personnel do not touch customers’ containers; instead, customers take food served on a plate and transfer it themselves.) Why is BYOC so important, you might ask? Here’s some background. To mitigate the plastic waste crisis, environmental organizations have chanted “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” for decades. Many of us have taken it seriously, especially the “Recycle” bit, for good reason. After use, plastics do not biodegrade, they form micro and nano-plastics, tiny fragments smaller than 5mm, that now appear everywhere on the planet, including Antarctica, human blood and even the rain. Each week the average American ingests enough plastic to create a credit card. Scientists are still studying the effects on human health, but evidence suggests exposure to plastic particles inflames and damages the lungs, increases cancer risks, suppresses immune systems, and disrupts the regulation of hormones. There are also harms to wildlife, and the carbon emissions resulting from the manufacture and disposal of the waste. And we are paying for all of it! Unfortunately, recycling plastic has its limits. Globally and in the US, less than 10% of plastics are recycled. Some communities are eliminating their recycling programs due to high costs. Plastic is expensive to collect and sort; there are thousands of different types of plastic, and none of them can be melted down together. Plastic degrades after a couple rounds of recycling, and becomes more toxic with each round. Environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics are being invented. However, many paper products contain PFAS, “forever” chemicals, for waterproofing and greaseproofing. The paper biodegrades, but the chemicals stay around for centuries. Wondering how you, as a customer, can remember to take appropriate containers with you? Keep them in your car! Also, when ordering take-out, mention you are bringing your own container, so the restaurant will not package your food. Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching, when we buy more, and use more of everything. So, now is a great time to re-evaluate our relationships with plastics. Submitted by ACES member, Andrew Hartley

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