WESTFIELD – Fresh from their success last summer in convincing the district to eliminate plastic straws in favor of paper straws, which will go into effect this fall; the rising fifth and sixth graders in the Summer Edventure program advocated eliminating single use plastic bags to community leaders during a presentation on Tuesday at the Southampton Road Elementary School.
In the audience were state Rep. John C. Velis, Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and Christopher Rogers, Westfield Public Schools administrator of student interventions and safety, who oversees the Summer EdVenture program.
Summer Edventure and fifth grade teacher Alexandra Brennan introduced the class of approximately 40 students. She said they were “super proud of our district last year,” for hearing them, and discontinuing the use of plastic straws.
Brennan said with Big Y discontinuing single use plastic bags on Aug. 1, the students designed a canvas bag as a fundraiser to support the environment and the Westfield Intermediate School. The design incorporates the WPS logo bicycle with the earth in its wheels, and the slogan, “Westfield Public Schools – Cycling our way to a greener planet.” She said the bags, which cost $10, just went on sale, and they have already ordered 100 more bags.
The students then lined up to speak in turn during the slideshow, entitled, “Ban Plastic Bags in the Westfield Public School Community.”
Each presented facts and photos of the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, and in particular plastic bags, which end up in the ocean.
Student comments included:
Plastic problem. Every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet.
Plastic bags never degrade.
9% of plastic is recycled.
18 billion pounds of plastic end up in the ocean every year.
Biggest plastic floating waste in ocean is twice the size of Texas.
They become microplastics.
Animals in the ocean eat plastic bags.
Plastic bags trap animals.
Sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish.
Whales and turtles are killed by plastic.
In June, a whale in Thailand died – found 80 pieces of plastic in its stomach.
Animals can suffer for months or years before they die.
Clean the environment, or some animals will become extinct.
Plastic bags are petroleum-based, not biodegradable.
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which take 12 million barrels of oil to produce.
The oil needed to produce 12-14 plastic bags equals the gas to drive a car one mile.
The average family uses 1500 plastic bags a year.
Plastic bags release toxic chemicals into the soil.
Bottles contain BPA, which interferes with hormones.
Plastics can get into bottled water when exposed to heat or it gets old.
Plastic bags are hurting animals, not just in the ocean.
The students also had recommendations for the community:
Use paper bags, fabric bags, boxes for groceries (“for Charlie Baker”).
If we help, we can make the ocean beautiful again.
If you buy soda with plastic rings, make sure you cut them so they will not trap animals.
Help the sea by picking up trash and by not using plastic.
If we get rid of plastic bags for good, the world will be a better place.
Following the presentation, the members of the audience applauded the students’ efforts.
“They work hard. They do a nice job,” Rogers said, adding that this is the second year in a row the students have chosen helping the environment as their community service project.
“Next year, we’re using paper straws. Now, seeing what plastic bags are doing to the environment, it makes a lot of sense for us to look at alternatives,” Rogers added.
Rogers also told the students that he was very impressed at how well they did during the presentation, knowing that they were going to come up and speak in front of the mayor, superintendent and Rep. Velis.
Rogers said he was “excited and thrilled” about the canvas bag that the students designed. He said the fundraiser for the Westfield Intermediate School, which the fifth and sixth graders will be attending in the fall, will be ongoing throughout the year.
“The students clearly spent a lot of time researching the harmful effects that plastic bags have on our environment. Their presentations were compelling and they deserve recognition for their efforts,” commented Superintendent Czaporowski following the presentation.