When Trash Free Maryland Director Julie Lawson looks back on 2015, she sees a long list of accomplishments for her organization. Among them:
- They passed foam food packaging bans in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and trained a dozen other organizations on the issue and helped them be effective advocates, demonstrating a broad coalition of support. Together with the DC foam ban they passed in 2014, more than 2.5 million people, and 15,000 businesses, will be using more sustainable and less toxic food packaging in 2016;
- They passed a first-of-its-kind ban on plastic microbeads in face wash, toothpaste, and other personal care products. TFMD worked with leadership in the General Assembly, industry representatives, and the Maryland Department of Environment to enact a ban that includes most synthetic microbeads, keeping these tiny plastic pellets out of the water and out of our seafood;
- They asked DC and Maryland to update their programs for keeping trash out of the Anacostia River, modifying the way they measure their progress so it makes more sense to real people and ensures that the river will one day be truly trash-free;
- They spoke to more than 500 students from elementary school to graduate school, and hundreds of grownups;
- The Trash Free Maryland Trash Trawl is the largest study yet of plastic pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, collecting more than 75 samples of water, plastic pieces, and fish. Once the data analysis is complete in 2016, TFMD can show how the plastic bag in the tree in front of your house ends up back on your dinner plate, possibly contaminated with chemicals;
- National Geographic produced a video about the TFMD Trash Trawl project. Watch:
What's ahead in 2016
All of these accomplishments were made with a single staff member (Lawson herself), a devoted board of directors, and various organizations, businesses, government agencies and decision makers, as well as individual volunteers committed to reducing trash in Maryland’s environment.
Trash Free Maryland is leading a campaign in 2016 to empower more Baltimore residents to stop litter in their own neighborhoods, by working with federal, state, and city agencies, and a slew of nonprofit and funding partners;
According to Lawson, TFMD is going to ban the plastic bag in Maryland this year. Thanks to Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Victor Ramirez, the Community Cleanup and Greening Act has already been filed, and the coalition of supporters is already speaking up (mark your calendars for February 9!)
"And we're going to keep up the road show around the state, talking microplastics and litter with everyone who will listen," says Lawson. "We've elevated 'trash' out of the environmental pigeonhole, and made it part of conversations about public health, public safety, and community development. Trash affects everyone; why shouldn't we all be working to prevent it?"
Trash Free Maryland was founded in 2010 by Lawson with a simple mission: to prevent litter. The organization focuses on programs and policies that reduce the use of disposable bags and polystyrene, and advocates recycling of bottles, cans, and other materials.
The nonprofit organization is also engaged in the development and assessment of regulations aimed at reducing trash pollution, fostering changes within industry, and behavior change through public education and community programs. More than 60 organizations, schools, and businesses from across the state participate.
What can your organization accomplish in 2016?
Contact PPC to share your goals and inspire others. Write to us here.
If you are not yet a Plastic Pollution Coalition member, join us here.
Happy New Year!
Photo of Evia Thompson by Julie Lawson.