Middle School Block Takes on Single-Use Plastics

It all started with a Middle School cleanup project at the Los Angeles River. Overwhelmed by the amount of plastic pollution in our environment, a few seventh graders decided to act. With support from Middle School Director Pat Gray and Environmental Sustainability Manager Laura Fleming, who both participated in the cleanup, the students pitched the idea of an eighth-grade sustainability block focused on learning about plastics and how they could reduce single-use plastics on Poly’s campus. 
Eight students signed on after presenting the block topic to their eighth-grade peers, and the “Deep Dive Into The Global Plastics’ Crisis” came to life. Over 12 weeks, the Deep Dive Block learned about how the durability of plastic creates both positive and negative impacts. They then dove deeper into studying the impacts on climate change, human health, water consumption, and wildlife. Once they identified the largest sources of plastic waste in the Middle School, the students met with school leaders: Poly’s lunch provider, Bevaris, Middle School faculty, and Poly’s Operations team. The students presented their findings and proposed ways to reduce single-use plastics. 
The results? The cafeteria has stopped selling plastic water bottles, translating to 26,000 fewer plastic bottles in our environment. Middle School faculty also agreed to a plan to reduce the number of trash cans in their classrooms, saving as many as 13,000 plastic trash can liners per year. The Deep Dive Block is optimistic about changing other lunch plastic packaging to more biodegradable options for the next school year. You can watch their presentation at the State of the School community meeting here.