By Ben Crain
At Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Delaware, our sports teams (the "Hillers") unwittingly contribute to the global plastic pollution problem when we drink bottled water and Gatorade. Chemicals used to create plastic bottles are known endocrine disruptors that alter our hormone function. In 2010, the FDA warned of BPA’s danger to fetuses and children. Plastic pollution breaks down into smaller pieces and gets eaten by fish, that then become our food.
According to Greenpeace International, a plastic trash vortex in the North Pacific slowly swirls clockwise, choking the fish, marine mammals and birds that get trapped inside of it. Some estimate these masses of plastic pollution range in size from as small as Texas to as large as the United States.
Recently, our team has chosen to reduce its consumption of single-use disposable plastics. With the support of Athletic Director Jack Holloway and team moms, we've begun using large water jugs and reusable bottles for each player instead of bottled drinks. Though parents are still providing individual Gatorades for this season, the plan is to go the way of the large water jugs or reusable coolers, which cost around $25 for a 5-gallon container.
Our baseball team now recycles their bottles after games. The changes might not appear great; maybe next year all teams will use stainless steel bottles. But the team’s adjustment has already reduced its plastic consumption by 870 bottles!
If all 18 sports teams did this for a year, THS would reduce its plastic bottle usage by 15,660 bottles, at a cost of approximately $13,467. If THS athletics refused individual Gatorades and used the reusable cooler instead, Tower Hill would reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 31,320 in one year. That's $28,567, after eliminating both water and Gatorade bottles.
How many bottles does your school use?
Delaware state Rep. Deborah Hudson recognized that nationally, only 12 percent of plastic bags are recycled. And as many as 3,500,000 tons of plastic bags are thrown away each year and end up in landfills or in our environment. Rep. Hudson introduced House Bill 202 to require larger stores to charge a 5-cent fee for each single-use bag, which has been effective in changing customer behavior and encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags.
If you're tired of seeing plastic bags blowing around, email your state senator and representatives and ask them to support legislation like Delaware's HB 202.
Ben Crane is a student at Tower Hill in Wilmington, Delaware, and student PPC ambassador.