By Bridget Altman
Many 10th grade girls are worried about who’s dating Harry Styles. But three girls from Mission Bay High School are concerned about something bigger. While taking an advanced biology course, Ciara Gray, Arielle Hancko, and Katrina Eisenhardt were inspired to take action and protect our oceans from a major threat: plastic.
Plastic pollution is dangerous in all of its forms. Many of our favorite animals, like sea turtles and whales, try to consume plastic, mistaking it for food. Often this causes them to choke or suffer intestinal blockage, which can lead to death. This is especially bad for species that are already in decline from other factors like habitat loss and poaching. Problems from plastic pollution have even started to show up on our dinner plates. Tiny bits of plastic called “microplastics” get swallowed by zooplankton and small fish. When these zooplankton and small fish get eaten, the microplastic they consumed gets passed up to the next trophic level since plastic is not digestible. This pattern continues until you are eating your favorite sushi roll and notice tiny colorful particles that don’t belong in your food.
With the help of Mr. Steve Walters, high school biology teacher extraordinaire, these three girls decided to take a stand against the use of plastic in their school. Every day at lunch these students collected bags of trash from the cafeteria. One long Sunday, they went through these bags and sorted them, piece by piece. They were expecting to find lots of plastic bottles, but the most abundant plastic items were bowls and cutlery! This, they soon discovered, was because the cafeteria workers hand out bowls and cutlery to every single student in the lunch line, regardless of their meal. The plastic quickly adds up and contributes to ocean pollution in a very tragic way.
The girls realized they needed to act fast. Even when they felt they were giving up their free time, they knew their hard work would pay off. They researched alternative solutions. The students even built a model pirate ship out of some plastic they found in the trash to serve as an effective visual aid for their lobbying efforts. It turns out, the paper alternative to the plastic-wear is actually cheaper and can save money!
Walters arranged a meeting with Gary Petill and Janet Whited, the San Diego Unified School District Food and Nutrition Services and Recycling Specialist, respectively. Walters and the students successfully demonstrated the negative impacts this plastic use was having on the oceans and the legislators implemented a change. No more frivolous use of this plastic-wear. District wide.
But these three students are far from done fighting for the environment. When asked what is next on the agenda, they all said “composting waste!” This generation is our future, and with girls like these already dedicated to seeking positive change, our future is in good hands!
Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.