Milliken Environmental Speaker Kelly Thorvalson addresses impact of single-use plastics

Kelly Thorvalson, conservation programs manager for the South Carolina Aquarium, spoke to Middle and Upper School students Wednesday as this year's Milliken Environmental Speaker. Thorvalson addressed the impact of single-use plastics and, in particular, the harmful effects of those plastics on sea turtles.

Thorvalson, a native of Georgetown, began working with the South Carolina Aquarium in 1999, a year before the aquarium opened its doors in Charleston. In addition to helping build the initial animal collection, Kelly managed the Sea Turtle Care Center for 12 years, greatly developing the program including a major expansion that opened in 2017. In Kelly’s current position as Conservation Programs Manager, she is helping to advance conservation initiatives in relation to sustainable seafood, climate change, sea level rise and plastic pollution.

"(Plastic) is a problem," Thorvalson said. "We also know that it's not just sea turtles, it's all marine life... No matter where you live in the world, we depend on a healthy ocean to be healthy."

She encouraged students to refuse single-use plastics, being mindful of things like plastic bags and drinking straws. Even a few pieces of plastic can kill sea turtles, she said.

"Plastic is an important material in our lives, but single-use plastics, something that's used for maybe 10 minutes, that's what's really harming our environment."