Ben Crain, ’16

Did you know that islands of discarded plastic products float in all of the world’s oceans? Experts estimate that these masses of plastic pollution range in area from as small as Texas to as large as the United States. According to Green Peace International, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific slowly swirls clockwise, choking the fish, marine mammals and birds that get trapped inside of it.

Although it can break down at a very slow pace, plastic never dissolves completely. Marine animals, which become the food we consume, ingest these plastic particles. Additional dangers are present for humans. Chemicals used to create plastic are made with endocrine disruptors that alter our hormone function. In 2010, the FDA warned of BPA’s danger to fetuses and children.

As a student at Tower Hill, I feel encouraged to not only excel academically but through the athletic program.  It is an integral part of our education. Yet, at Tower Hill, our sports teams unwittingly contribute to the plastic problem. This past spring, the team moms sent a letter out to every player on the baseball team asking families to supply sixty plastic bottle drinks per game, 30 bottles of water and 30 of Gatorade. While this is a typical preseason request for each team, last year, the team chose to reduce its plastic consumption of single-use disposable plastics. With the support of Athletic Director Jack Holloway, one mom bought large water jugs and reusable bottles for each player. Though parents still provided individual Gatorades for the season, the plan is to transition to the large water jugs or reusable coolers. The teams now recycle the bottles after the games. Our goal this year is to have all school teams transition to reusable stainless steel bottles. These changes might not seem extraordinary, but one minor change by the baseball team reduced its plastic consumption by 870 bottles! If all 18 sports teams in just this one school did this for a year, THS would reduce its plastic bottle usage by 15,660 bottles. Better still, if THS athletes refused individual Gatorades and used the reusable cooler instead, Tower Hill would reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 31,320 in just one year. How many bottles does your school use?

On a statewide level, Representative Deborah Hudson recognized that nationally only 12% of plastic bags are recycled. The remainder of the 3,500,000 tons of plastic bags are thrown away each year and end up in landfills, or worse, in our environment. Rep. Hudson has introduced House Bill 202 that would require larger stores to charge a fee of five cents for each “single use” bag. Around the United States and in other countries, this charge has been proven extremely effective in changing customer behavior by encouraging shoppers to use reuseable bags. If you are tired of seeing plastic bags blowing around like Christmas lights that never come down, call or email your state senator and representative and ask that s/he support HB202 in 2016.