The group KSC Eco-Reps hosted a film screening and panel discussion on Tuesday, March 10 in Parker Hall’s Drenan Auditorium to raise awareness about the importance of plastic waste reduction.

The KSC Eco-Reps are a subset of Keene State’s Office of Sustainability that focus on encouraging improvements in environmental sustainability on campus, alongside another branch of the Sustainability Office called Recycling On Campus at Keene State (ROCKS). Members of the KSC Eco-Reps hosted a screening of “The Plastic Problem” in the Sprague W. Drenan Auditorium on Parker Hall’s third floor. Doors opened just before 6:30 p.m. and the film began at 7:00 p.m.

The film was created by the PBS NewsHour and aimed to report on and examine the impact heavy use of plastic has on the environment as well as proposing ways to reduce the dependency on the material.

The film cited statistics saying plastic in the ocean will become more abundant than fish by 2050. Plastic waste, PBS reported, can harm animals severely if they consume or inhale debris or get trapped in large pieces of discarded plastic.

America produces 30 percent of all the waste plastic in the world, the film claimed. The film also declared the widespread recycling and reusing of plastic can only do so much to reduce the problem as even recycled plastic must eventually be disposed of. “The Plastic Problem”  also describes how the marketing for recyclable plastic has waned considerably, with 91 percent of plastic products going unrecycled. Burning the plastics will dispose of them, but this pollutes the air with toxic chemicals, and thus, multiple countries have banned the practice, PBS NewsHour reported.

In America, only about 20 percent of citizens support banning single-use plastic products such as wrappers or plastic straws and at least 12 states have instigated legislation to prevent the banning or taxing of plastics, the film reported. However, the film spotlighted a few cutting edge inventions geared towards reducing the damage done by plastic waste, such as a synthetic bacteria engineered to break down plastic at an accelerated rate and a prototype eco-friendly alternative material created from waste water.

After the film screening wrapped up at 8:00 p.m., the KSC Eco-Reps asked the audience members to stay for a panel discussion and Q&A. The panelists included Cary Gaunt, KSC’s Director of Campus Sustainability, who described the Sustainability Office’s major goal of eliminating waste plastic on campus completely by 2030. She also mentioned eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the campus heating and cooling systems as another one of their goals. “Look at your consumer choices, but really, take the next step,” Gaunt said, encouraging audience members to contribute to the efforts to improve sustainability on campus. She cited the Eco-Reps’ Single-Use Switch campaign, which successfully led to the campus dining commons banning the use of single-use plastic bags. “We all have the power to be change-makers,” Gaunt said. “So if you see something you don’t like, don’t just settle with it.”

One panelist, Elizabeth Leinau who represented the discussed and activist group called Beyond Plastics, said: “Our passion is trying to figure out the plastics problem.”. Leinau further described how Beyond Plastics regularly visits schools and sets up panels and booths in order to educate people on the harmful effects of plastics and how people can reduce their use of plastic products. “We all need to be more disciplined,” Leinau stated.

James Holcomb, a representative from Monadnock Co-Op in Keene, works with the store’s Green Team that focuses on improving sustainability. He stated the store recycles about 55 percent of all its plastic products, but the Co-Op will continue to work towards raising that number.

“What people don’t see is the packaging [groceries] come in,” Holcomb said as the panelists discussed what a community must do to reduce waste. He said the store’s meat and seafood departments have stopped selling food from providers who package their products in styrofoam. Additionally, Holcomb informed the audience members that they can bring the Co-Op’s milk bottles back to the store after use so the store can recycle them.

Morgan Chantler, the panelist representing the Eco-Reps and ROCKS, said she considers sparking conversation and increasing awareness the most important things the Eco-Reps do. She and Gaunt both described Keene State as regularly ranking among the top 20 U.S. campuses in successful recycling.


Lonnie Hiltz can be contacted at

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