“Oceans or Landfills?” Plastic Pollution Presentation with Expert Judith Enck

“Get active on these issues while you are still a college student” -Judith Enck

On the evening of Wednesday, February 12th, guests overfilled the Norm for “Oceans or Landfills? Moving Beyond Plastics”. The lecture featured Senior Fellow & Visiting Faculty member at Bennington College and Founder of Beyond Plastics at Bennington, Judith Enck. Judith delved into the dirty and devastating realities of the extreme increase of single-use plastic in the U.S over the past two decades. The presentation emphasized the urgency of this matter as the clock is ticking on how long the world still has to fix this issue. As Judith described the crisis, the Earth may be soon facing the irreversible effects of climate change and, at this point, “recycling is not the solution.” 

The event was sponsored by The Fair Trade & Social Justice Committee, CURCA, and The Stack Center and was opened by Dr. Vera Eccarius-Kelly of the political science department. Beyond Plastics at Bennington College in Vermont is an organization dedicated to ending plastic pollution through policy and societal change. During his presidency, Judith was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this position, she was in charge of overseeing the environmental protection of various regions across the nation. Judith was also Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the NY Governor’s Office. 

Judith Enck with former U.S President Barack Obama

Through her discussion, Judith expressed concerns regarding the continued increase in plastic production. “8.8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year” she noted. In explaining this unimaginable amount, Judith helped the audience conceptualize how generating this much pollution has been possible. A timely phenomenon, she stated that half of all plastic that has ever existed has been produced in just the past two decades. Judith indicated that the millions of tons of plastic in the ocean are not going away or even decreasing anytime soon with this rate of increase in plastic production. Furthermore, she noted that plastic in landfills will remain there until they begin to breakdown after roughly 500 years.

Judith explaining plastic pollution in oceans

At this point, the audience was left to wonder, what can we do to stop plastic pollution? Judith’s answer- produce less plastic. 

While she drove-home the point that this issue requires significant systemic and policy changes, there are ways that individual consumers can help. Judith urged the crowd to partake in eliminating what she referred to as the “Plastic Trifecta”, or single-use plastic straws, bags, and polystyrene, in their everyday lives. While it may seem like a small effort, Judith emphasized that change in plastic pollution can occur when a lot of people get on-board. Substantial progress can occur if the masses begin to reduce their daily plastic consumption.


Judith Enck closed out this event optimistically in saying she is “hopeful for the future because people are paying attention.” If you missed “Oceans or Landfills? Moving Beyond Plastic” be sure to check out the Beyond Plastics website for more information on the organization and how you can make a difference in ending plastic pollution. As always, be sure to stay up-to-date with what’s happening on campus by following Siena’s SOLA InstagramTwitter, and Facebook pages! Hope to see you at the next event, Saints!

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