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Oak Parkers challenged to give up single-use plastics in July

June 20, 2019 – Oak Park has joined the international movement to challenge citizens to reduce their impact on the environment by giving up single-use plastics such as bags and straws during the month of July.

Called Plastic Free July, this annual global challenge aims to raise awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic items in our lives and challenges individual citizens to do something about it.

Oak Parkers willing to accept the challenge to avoid single-use plastic in July are urged to visit and sign a pledge to choose what they will give up, urge others in the community and workplace to follow their lead and keep a tally of their successes for an August survey count of the worldwide effort.

The longer-term goal, according to Oak Park Sustainability Coordinator Mindy Agnew, is to demonstrate to individuals that if they can reduce their consumption of single-use plastics for a single month, they may realize it would not be that difficult to change their behavior for a lifetime.

“Plastics have become such an integral part our lives that many people may not realize that they are doing long-term damage to the environment,” she said. “Each of us has to accept responsibility for our roles in this situation and do something about it. If enough of us can avoid single-use items, perhaps manufacturers will take notice and introduce more products and packaging that is reusable and recyclable.”

An estimated 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes and 19 billion pounds of plastic enter the oceans each year, experts say. These discarded items can last for decades, littering shorelines and beaches, affecting wildlife health and habitats, and as they break down into smaller pieces, enter the drinking water supply with unknown, long-term consequences.

The local Plastic Free July effort is two-pronged – get residents to refuse single-use plastics like straws and bags, and get merchants to stop automatically offering them to their customers.

“The members of the Village’s Environment & Energy Commission who initiated the local Plastic Free July effort know that Oak Parkers avoiding single-use plastic for a single month isn’t likely to change the world,” Agnew said. “But it is a start. If every community would get involved, it will be a movement. And movements can bring change.”

In addition to urging residents to sign the pledge, the Village also will be working through the various Oak Park business associations to do their part. A step as simple as not automatically giving out plastic straws unless asked could prove to be a small, but effective step, officials say.

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