“We were so excited about a new partnership with Maine Outdoor Brands, and the best displays of boats, services and allied outdoor products our show would have, yet,” says Stacey Keefer, executive director of the Maine Marine Trades Association. “Now we must announce the cancellation of our fall Maine Boat & Outdoor Expo, and it’s hard to put into words our disappointment.”
Clearly the Delta variant has thwarted the show.
Keefer points to rising levels of community transmission of Delta in most Maine counties. Another key factor in the decision was the show was slated for an indoor venue, thus intensifying concerns. Moreover, since the important winterization season is just ahead in Maine, the MMTA could also not justify heightening the risk to any dealer or boatyard that employees could find themselves quarantined or even hospitalized and be unavailable at a critical time.
There’s another consideration, too, according to Keefer. “Maine is a giant small town,” she says, “and everyone knows each other. We would look and feel unwise promoting this type of event right now that could also stress out our hospital workers and our boating customers.”
The disappointment becomes even more real when one realizes the MMTA first ran this successful show in October 2019. Prior to that, the association had been without a show for six consecutive years. Plans for this year included a much bigger event with the addition of outdoor products and crowd-drawing attractions. The show was slated for the popular Thompson Point facilities in Portland and is expected to be rescheduled for next year.
Plastic pellet polluters become target
It hasn’t grabbed many headlines, but U.S. Senator Dick Durban, the Majority Whip, has introduced the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act. If passed, it would require the Environmental Protection Administration to specifically prohibit the discharge into waterways of plastic pellets and other similar pre-production plastics from facilities and sources that make, use, package or transport plastic pellets.
It this a problem? Yes. Plastics have become widely recognized as a major threat to the future of clean waterways on which boating hopes to continue to grow and flourish. But another unforeseen problem is the discovery that Covid-19 has driven a 40 percent increase in the use of plastic packaging, from single-use plastics for carryout food containers to handling the huge increase in online shopping purchases.
It has also been determined only a paltry nine percent of all plastics today end up being recycled. Much of the rest ends up in landfills or incinerators.
“Far too much ends up in our rivers, lakes and oceans,” says Senator Durbin “and this legislation is an important step in addressing the plastics problem at a source point that could be realistically controlled for starters.”
Why specifically plastic pellets? Often called “nurdles,” they are the preproduction building blocks of nearly all plastic goods. Due to the low cost of producing these pellets, they are often washed down drains or dumped if they come in contact with other materials like dust and dirt. They’re also subject to frequent spillage both in the shipping and production process — eventually finding their way into our waterways.
Each year, it is estimated plastic pellet pollution contributes significantly to the 22 million tons of plastic that end up annually, for example, in the Great Lakes. Continuing to look at the Great Lakes, the shorelines of all five have been found littered with plastic pellets. A study revealed 42 of 66 beaches showed significant pollution levels of pellets. The pellets are also building up on the bottom of these lakes and are being consumed by fish and marine life.
It’s also been determined that about 250,000 tons of plastic pellets also end up in the oceans each year. By 2025, experts project more than 4.5 billion pounds of plastic packaging will be used annually — nearly double the amount used this past year, and will generate increased use of pellets.
Seriously dealing with this type of water pollution can begin with the plastic pellets, and properly regulating the handling of those materials. That makes the Durbin bill something the boating industry can view favorably.