Jul 7, 2022 - News

How John Bunker Sands Wetland Center dealt with its plastics problem

A boardwalk through a wetland center
John Bunker Sands is one of the most beautiful slices of nature in North Texas. It's home to otters, beavers and eagles. Photo courtesy of Cormac West

While attempting to beautify the landscape around its new classrooms, the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center inadvertently spread compost and mulch riddled with microplastics, glass, metal, shoe parts, netting and other garbage.

Why it matters: JBS isn't just a prime stopover for migrating birds — including several bald eagles — the wetland center southeast of Dallas also processes drinking water as part of the North Texas Municipal Water District.

  • In laboratory tests, microplastics — tiny plastic particles that result from both commercial product development and the breakdown of larger plastics — have been shown to cause damage to human cells, including allergic reactions and cell death, according to National Geographic.
  • Ingested plastics also cause serious health problems in birds.

Zoom out: Microplastics are potentially everywhere, even Antarctica.

  • Yes, but: JBS strives to keep its land "pristine," JBS director John DeFillipo tells Axios.

The big picture: DeFillipo says volunteers spent more than 100 hours picking out plastic and trash from the soil.

  • Yes, but: He believes the problem has been remediated.

What happened: The center purchased 80 yards of organic compost and 40 yards of organic mulch from a municipally owned Texas composting organization that incorporates yard trimmings from residents.

  • The center first discovered the pollutants in April and says the organization refunded JBS' money but refused to help clean up the contaminated landscaping.
  • After volunteers sifted through the spoiled compost, the removed trash filled a five-gallon bucket.
  • DeFillipo says JBS has agreed not to name the organization it purchased the polluted compost from as long as that organization fixes the problem.

Meanwhile, JBS recently won the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award for its dedication to conservation management on private, working land.

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