5th Grade Students Present the Problems of Plastic Pollution

5th graders Peter, Darius, Liam, Roan, and Jacobi present their request to the Selectboard

The Marion Cross School 5th graders and their teacher, Jonathan Fenton, attended the Norwich Select Board meeting on February 13, 2019. Their purpose was to ask the Selectboard to accept these proposals:

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A.) Acceptance of Mike Peabody’s offer to take Norwich’s plastic not accepted for recycling at our transfer station. Town-financed weekly collection at the transfer station and transport of this plastic to the ARCC in Barre.

Inspired by the protest movement in the United Kingdom that led to the placement of hundreds of collection stations for foil-lined plastic chip bags around the country, students also suggest that it may help to locate a few additional collection bins around town for these plastic items. Suggestions include Dan & Whit’s, the Norwich Square, the Norwich Public Library, MCS, King Arthur Flour, Huntley Meadow, and Norwich Meadows. 

B.) Make an arrangement with Hannaford Supermarket (or another supermarket that participates in the W.R.A.P. program with the Trex Co.) similar to that made by the town of Thetford. Collect all plastic-film products at the transfer station and at the same collection sites used to collect plastic items for the ARCC. 

C.) A Ban on all point-of-sale, checkout or carryout plastic bags provided by a retailer or other business within the town of Norwich, regardless of labeling or thickness. We think it’s a mistake to get mired in a debate over the term ‘single- use’ and therefore recommend that it be avoided. And because our goal is to encourage the use of sturdy shopping bags made from eco-friendly, natural materials designed for longterm use, we don’t favor making exemptions for plastic bags of a certain thickness that have handles and meet a specified standard for reuse.

D.) If a retailer or other business provides a bag, it should be paper or made of natural, eco-friendly, biodegradable paper bags.

E.) To encourage reusable bags provided by the customer, a retailer or business should charge a fee for providing paper bags.

F.) No bioplastic bags, even if labeled ‘fully compostable,’ should be substituted for paper bags — at least not until they are proven to be truly compostable along with food scraps in a home composter or by the town of Norwich. 

G.) We defer to the Selectboard to determine an appropriate schedule of fines to be imposed for noncompliance.

The 5th grade students visited and or corresponded with the following businesses in order to achieve their goals:

Dan & Whits, Carpenter & Main, Norwich Inn, Fogg’s Ace Hardware, King Arthur Flour, (store, baking classes, café), Blue Sparrow Café, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich Post Office, Zuzu’s, Montshire Museum, Mascoma Bank, and Ledyard bank.

There is a popular and growing movement to ban or heavily tax single-use plastic bags across the United States and globally. These bags eventually make their way to landfills and into our oceans, adding to the 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. This impacts every scale of marine ecosystems, from bottom feeders and microorganisms to whales.

These two paragraphs were taken from Principal Bill Hammond’s latest Cross Words newsletter. It pretty much sums it up for me. This is what he wrote:

On Wednesday night, fifth graders spoke at the Norwich Selectboard Meeting. During their hour-and-a-half presentation, they talked about the worldwide effects of plastic use, the steps they took to get information about plastic use from local and regional institutions, the present practices of these institutions, the grant they received to help mitigate the impact of plastic, and the recommendations they have for recycling more types of plastic and banning the use of some plastic in Norwich.

What did they teach me? They reminded me that if there’s a problem – and something doesn’t feel right – work to understand it and fix it. The best way forward is to push for improvement. A lot of little improvements make one big improvement.

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