Morris tackles microplastics with the Coalition for Plastic Reduction

ALL TOGETHER NOW. Speakers, activists, and interested individuals alike gathered in the Capitols basement to discuss the plastic use problem and what Minnesotans need to know about waste.
(Submitted photo: Evan Morris)
ALL TOGETHER NOW. Speakers, activists, and interested individuals alike gathered in the Capitol’s basement to discuss the plastic use problem and what Minnesotans need to know about waste. (Submitted photo: Evan Morris)

Just a few months ago, sophomore Evan Morris received an application offer from biology teacher Karissa Baker asking for students interested in science, policy and outreach to connect with a University of Minnesota professor. Now, Morris is working to raise Minnesotans’ awareness of the harms of microplastics.

How did Morris first get involved? “[Baker] has this professor that she knows, and her name’s Mary Kosuth. She’s a researcher [at the U of M] and one of her main goals is to help reduce microplastics in Minnesota and [she is working with] different bills.”

Kosuth was looking for students interested in assisting with the communicative aspect of her work, primarily starting social media accounts under the name of the Coalition for Plastic Reduction, which Morris thought sounded like an interesting experience. Morris, Kosuth and other students involved have met up to discuss various ways that social media can help get information out to Minnesotans.

Right now, Morris and the rest of Kosuth’s team are still in the early stages of getting their social media pages up and running, one of which is on Linktree. This account will be integral for increasing public access to their project. “We’re using [Linktree] so that people can access us and have a link on there that’s going to allow people to look at or reach out to their local politicians and legislators…so they can actually be a part of a process,” said Morris. The social media accounts will have their contact information so anyone can reach out if interested in the mission or help to lobby and get proposed bills through the Minnesota legislation.

The groundwork, though, is set. “All of our social media accounts are created. We have Facebook, accounts on TikTok, Instagram, pretty much everything. And we’re about to start some posting on those accounts and she’s [working on getting] some bills passed,” Morris said.

One of the major bills in question that Morris will help promote was proposed in the Minnesota Legislature on Tuesday and would require all packaging in the state to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2032. (For reference, more than 40% of plastic that is produced in the United States is used to create single-use plastic.) Kosuth will be testifying on behalf of the bill. Morris hopes to collect videos to post to the account when the bill is passed.

There’s a lot more work occurring beforehand, though. The first large-scale event that Morris and other students will be working on is Zero Waste Lobby Day at the Minnesota State Capitol, which occurred on Wednesday. “We’re gonna go there and hopefully do some TikTok interviews…and then meet some local companies because once we get somewhat established, we’d like to do some local partnerships with these different [eco-friendly] brands and…highlight how they’re sustainable,” Morris said before the event. He and other students ended up conducting interviews with three prominent local leaders and experts in the plastic reduction field. Morris’s next step is editing the videos and posting them to the new accounts.

As one of the Coalition for Plastic Reduction’s goals is to inform Minnesotans about actions that they can take to increase sustainability, promoting eco-friendly brands through the organization’s social media platforms is essential. Using products with minimal plastic is important given the highly prevalent nature of plastics and microplastics in everyday life. Such compounds have been linked to serious health issues such as endocrine disruption, weight gain, insulin resistance, decreased reproductive health, and cancer.

“One thing that Mary told me straight off the bat is…people often view recycling as if plastic is just gone [once recycled], and that’s not always the case. A lot of the time the plastics that you’re actually recycling aren’t necessarily being recycled and they are just being put in as waste,” Morris said.

Highlighting the process of these bills being passed and giving people an opportunity to express their own beliefs and be a part of the process is why he wants to help people make eco-friendly choices when they make purchases.

This [project] is for a youth audience. And that’s a big reason why we’re using social media to try to achieve this.

— Evan Morris

“I understand that it can be expensive and really hard to find these sustainable brands and still be on a budget. And I think that’s one of our main goals — to show that it doesn’t have to be that way. We can find different solutions,” he said.

Those solutions that stem from the desire to see change often come from youth like Morris. He hopes to see the group of students interested in environmental sustainability increase. “This [project] is for a youth audience. And that’s a big reason why we’re using social media to try to achieve this.”

Morris hopes that his work increases public engagement with climate policy and leads to positive change in Minnesota.

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