‘Plastic Apocalypse’ program to feature National Geographic photographer, Sewickley resident

Monday, February 4, 2019 | 6:03 AM

Award-winning photographer and Sewickley resident Randy Olson has worked on more than 30 projects for “National Geographic.” Most recently, he visited four countries in Southeast Asia to document the impact of plastic waste. His work appeared in the magazine’s June 2018 issue.

On Feb. 20, Olson will present photographs from the article during a program called “The Plastic Apocalypse,” organized by Communities First — Sewickley Valley, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, SHAPE/10 Actions and Sustainable Sewickley. The program will also include a presentation on local recycling by Justin Stockdale, western regional director at the Pennsylvania Resources Council.

Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in discussion at the event, which will take place at the Edgeworth Club.

“A lot of the world’s attention is turning toward plastic and the manufacturing and the recycling of it,” said Gail Murray of Edgeworth, who helped organize the program on behalf of Communities First, a group of concerned citizens committed to protecting the health, safety and environment of the Sewickley Valley. The group is concerned about the impact the petrochemical industry will have on communities, according to its mission statement.

Olson said he plans to share photographs from his 2018 article with the audience on Feb. 20. In addition to the problem of plastic waste, he will also discuss Europe’s Zero Waste movement and explain what life is like as a “National Geographic” photographer.

He captured photographs for his article in several countries, including Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Indonesia. The latter two nations, along with China, are responsible for much of the plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans, he said.

“Consumption is growing faster than systems to process plastic waste in those places that I went,” said Olson.

Even in the United States, less than 10 percent of plastic gets recycled, “National Geographic” has reported.

Murray said Stockdale will talk about the current state of recycling in the region. Sustainable Sewickley, she added, led the effort to bring Stockdale to Edgeworth. Heather Harr of the League of Women Voters said Stockdale spoke at one of the organization’s recent events, where he discussed ways to improve recycling on a local level.

“The Plastic Apocalypse” is free to attend and begins at 6:30 p.m. with a half-hour social and cash bar. The program takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP and can do so at https://actionnetwork.org/events/the-plastic- apocalypse/ .

“We all use plastics, but we don’t really know that much about them, like where they come from and how we use them … so this event will educate us a little bit about those things,” Harr said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.