We Have a Plastic Problem

Posted on: Tue, 04/23/2019 - 16:00

The expression “out of the mouths of babes” was quite fitting as a group of 5th grade students at Myersville ES asked FCPS to help solve a serious problem.

photo of MYES Environmental Club
Myersville Elementary School Environmental Club

The Environmental Club at Myersville Elementary School had done their homework. The research they presented was compelling. They shared other ways they have advocated for environmental issues and successfully brought about positive change. They understood that what they envisioned could have a big fiscal impact on the FCPS Food and Nutrition Services budget. They brainstormed with the adults they had invited on possible ways to address their request—to eliminate plastic water bottles from the offerings in our school cafeterias.  And they asked quite simply, “What do you want your legacy to be?”

These young environmental crusaders meet with Environmental Club sponsors Melissa Hargreaves and Michelle Carpenter every Friday morning before school begins. They support a variety of environmental programs—across the school and community—that have earned Myersville ES the distinguished recognition of being a “Green School.”

photo of plastic pollution
Seventy-three percent of beach litter is plastic.

Their concern with plastic water bottles is noteworthy. Consider these scary statistics about plastic:

  • Since the 1950s, about 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced. That’s the weight of about one billion elephants! Only about 9% of the plastic has been recycled, 12% has been burned, and 79% has gone to landfills or litters our environment.
  • Worldwide, 73% of beach litter is plastic.
  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles plus 1 million seabirds are killed by plastic every year.
  • 38 million plastic bottles go to a landfill in America every year, and it can take 700 years for a plastic bottle to dissolve.
photo of dead albatross from plastic pollution
One million seabirds are killed by plastic every year

There are many more statistics that should scare all of us. And the photos from around the world are heart wrenching. This is a serious problem, and the Environmental Club at Myersville ES is asking us to take action. They would like us to start by putting water bottle filling stations in every cafeteria so that students can bring reusable water bottles to schools to fill up each day. They even suggested that we sell paper cups for students who don’t bring water bottles. This is a sound strategy, but overcoming the fiscal impact will be the biggest challenge.

I welcome other ideas and suggestions, and I encourage everyone to begin to examine your own use of plastic. There are small steps you can take to make a difference!