As an alum of Keene High School, I was excited to see the Source to Sea River Cleanup project taking place again this year (“It’s Source to Sea River Cleanup time again,” Sept. 18), but the feeling is bittersweet.

While it is impressive to see our communities band together to work on a cleanup initiative, when we step back to look at the big picture, we soon realize that cleanup projects are a band-aid over a bullet wound.

My name is Emma Murphy, and I am a current undergraduate at Bennington College. Recently, I have been investigating the role of plastic and waste in our environment and how to create sustainable and effective solutions for our communities to work with waste. Sadly, we have a long way to go before our planet can begin to recover. But there is hope.

Over the past decade, we have been convinced that our waste can be composted or recycled away and that we can collect the rest. Out of sight, out of mind. Realistically, we can effectively recycle only number one and number two plastics out of the seven different plastics widely manufactured today, and whether or not your city will actually recycle them is up in the air.

While New Hampshire does recycle number one and two plastics, the main purpose is to sell and export them, along with other types of waste, such as fibers and glass. In the end, the majority of this waste ends up in landfills, oceans and our atmosphere when burned. As a result, we are left with irrevocable consequences to our environment, wildlife and human beings.

While cleanup projects help alleviate some of these issues on a minor level, they don’t approach the problem at the core; single-use plastics and ineffective recycling. Making a difference comes from tackling a subject on multiple levels. With incredible communities like Keene, Swanzey and Winchester, I’m sure we can take this environmental activism to the next level.

If you want to help make a difference by stopping the problem at its core, then reach out to our senators. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. Maggie Hassan, please support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act and help our communities take the next step toward a safer, healthier planet.

That being said, good luck with the Source to Sea River Cleanup! Every step matters.

EMMA MURPHY

Marlborough

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