A Primer on Plastic Pollution

A group of Pomona third-graders that has been studying plastic pollution presented their work at a national waste and materials management meeting last month. For their efforts, they were honored with a standing ovation—and a check for $400 for reusable water bottles. 

The students presented to about 250 people at the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) 2018 Mid-Year Meeting last month in Anaheim. They described how fish and other animals mistake plastic litter for food and how plastic debris creates dead zones and garbage patches in ocean waters.

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As part of their Kingsley Elementary School project, they read articles about plastic and researched the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as well as dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. They

also collected trash around the campus and weighed and sorted it. After finding that plastic water bottles were ending up in the trash at their school, they made videos and posters to encourage fellow students to use reusable water bottles.

“I thought the experience was fun and nice to do to tell other people what is going on on the planet,” said Darian, a third-grader who was involved in the project. His classmates agreed.

“I was surprised that everybody liked our ideas that we did and we won the $400!” Reyna added.

Their teachers, Vanessa Villagran and Jacquelynn Fischer, said the presentation was a valuable experience for the students, and that developing environmental awareness at a young age is key to working for change in the future. 

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CalRecycle was introduced to the students’ work through the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CalEPA) Environmental Justice Task Force. The task force was created in 2013 to coordinate compliance and enforcement across all of CalEPA’s boards and departments (air, water, pesticides, waste and recycling, toxic substances, and environmental assessment) in communities that contain multiple sources of pollution and that are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects.

Pomona was selected by CalEPA as an area of focus for an Environmental Justice Enforcement Initiative in part using a mapping tool called CalEnviroScreen, which was developed to help identify California communities who face environmental justice issues. Through the Pomona initiative, an effort was made to specifically engage youth and teachers.

CalRecycle’s Deputy Director of the Waste Permitting, Compliance and Mitigation Division, Mark de Bie, is the past president of ASTSWMO and helped facilitate California’s involvement in the meeting. CalRecycle will continue to work with ASTSWMO to engage youth to restore, protect, and enhance the environment and public health in California and help showcase the great work by teachers throughout the state.

—Angela Vincent

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— Angela Vincent
Posted on May 10, 2018

Summary: A group of Pomona third-graders that has been studying plastic pollution presented their work at a national waste and materials management meeting last month.