By ROY WOOD
Concerned with the scourge of plastic-waste pollution, a class of grade-11 students urged Osoyoos council on Tuesday to take a couple of steps to fight back.
Plastic drinking straws and discarded cigarette butts were the targets of two delegations from Sarah Gilchrist’s English class, which crowded council chambers.
Council members were enthusiastic in praising the presentations, but stopped short of pledging actual action or even serious study.
Holly Duguid and Patty Bratton asked council to consider a ban on plastic straws, pointing out that Canadians discard about 30 million of them every day. Vancouver recently passed a ban on plastic straws, as have several US cities, including Seattle and Miami Beach.
Straws make up a significant proportion of the plastics that account for about 80 per cent of ocean debris and is a major threat to marine plant and animal life.
“Osoyoos has the opportunity to be seen as an environmental leader on this issue. And to be seen by its own townspeople … and the thousands of people who come here every year as a place that cares about the future,” their presentation said.
The pair suggested there should a phase-in period for such a straw ban and proposed that reusable straws or recyclable paper ones could be offered to customers need or demand a straw with their drink.
Seth Kriese, Faith Stark and Rheanna Harfman addressed the cigarette butt issue, suggesting the town deploy more receptacles on beaches and in parks.
Aside from the visual assault, the group pointed out that cigarette filters contain plastics that not only take years to degrade but also contain dangerous chemicals.
“When placed in the landfill, toxins in the butts leak into the soil and groundwater and even though it doesn’t seem like much, add it all together, it makes a big impact,” said Harfman.
The group suggested the town could use the free services of TerraCycle, a Toronto-based recycling firm.
According to its website, TerraCycle accepts cigarette butts for recycling. The plastics are extracted from the filters and recycled into a variety of products. Any remaining tobacco becomes compost.
Gilchrist, an English teacher at Osoyoos Secondary, told ODN the presentations to council were the culmination of a research project that required students to gather facts about “something they are passionate about” and then take some action.