As marine debris continues to grow as a threat to marine life, Wrightsville Beach served as host to the Fourth Annual North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium on Sept. 11-14, drawing more than 60 attendees to discuss the problem and consider solutions.
This year’s symposium brought together a wide range of participants, from activists to industry leaders to scientists, to discuss the problem and search for solutions, said symposium director Lisa Rider.
“The stakeholders for this issue are every person on the planet,” said Rider, who is also the president of the Plastic Ocean Project board of directors and the deputy director of the Onslow County solid waste department.
The three-day event, hosted by the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, included speakers, panels and roundtable discussions, including a panel on citizen outreach, solid waste infrastructure improvements, beachside recycling and microplastic ingestion. Participants included the American Chemical Council; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lab in Beaufort, North Carolina; the North Carolina Museum of Art; the North Topsail Beach town government; North Carolina state solid waste officials and others, Rider said.
The symposium also included a beach sweep Sept. 13, which Rider said reflected back on the roots of the meeting. She started the symposium four years ago as a way to organize participants in the local beach cleanups.
“There are so many who are trying to solve this issue,” Rider said. She noted that the scope of the problem is immense. The United States uses 500 million plastic straws each day, she said, and enough K-Cup style single-serve coffee dispensers each year to wrap around the planet nearly 11 times.
“The problem is not litterbugs,” Rider said. “There’s too much disposal of trash and not enough landfills and infrastructure to handle it.”
Bonnie Monteleone, director of science, research and academic partnerships at the Plastic Ocean Project, spoke about the wide-reaching dangers that plastics in the ocean create.
“There are many threats to the ocean, but the problem of plastics compounds it so much more,” Monteleone said. “Plastic has become the apex predator of the sea.”
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