December 11, 2019 — THIBODAUX, La. — The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) was recently awarded a grant by Keep Louisiana Beautiful to install water bottle refilling stations in six local high schools in an effort to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that is thrown away on a daily basis.
The six schools: South Lafourche High School, E. D. White Catholic High School, South Terrebonne High School, Vandebilt Catholic High School, Thibodaux High School, and Grand Isle High School all had students participate in BTNEP’s Marine Debris Education and Prevention Program earlier this year. While there, the students identified plastic waste as an issue in each of their respective schools, and thought refilling stations could help address the problem. The students also aided in the grant writing process.
“Students from the six selected schools actually came up with the idea for a water bottle refilling station. They saw how many bottles were being thrown in the garbage every day and knew this would make a powerful impact,” said Alma Robichaux, BTNEP Education and Outreach Coordinator. “We expect to keep approximately 100,000 water bottles per year out of the landfill with these stations.”
Single-use plastics, like plastic water bottles, are rapidly attributing to plastic waste and are taking up increasingly larger percentages of the overall municipal solid waste (MSW). According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2017, U.S. landfills received 26.8 millions tons of plastic — that’s 19.2% of all MSW landfilled.
Alarmingly, much of the plastic waste is ending up in waterways. This plastic pollution is already an issue for marine life, coastal wildlife, and humans alike. Efforts like water bottle refilling stations will aid in reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills or in the environment.
According to Susan Testroet-Bergeron, BTNEP Director, “Plastic waste is a rapidly growing segment of our human waste stream. These new water bottle refilling stations will encourage students to refill their own containers and hopefully help to reduce the number of single use plastics. These types of projects also raise awareness about the value of clean water and the need to protect our drinking water here in the estuary.”
To measure efficacy, each refilling station is outfitted with a counter to report back to BTNEP how many refills were made at each station and in turn, how many plastic bottles were saved. Students at the participating schools will be encouraged to use the refilling stations as they will be installed in high-traffic areas of the schools.
The overall hope is that by reducing the need for disposable single-use plastic bottles, not only will the schools reduce their plastic consumption and waste, the students’ families will be able to reduce or eliminate purchasing plastic bottled water for their children to bring to school.
For more information about the program, or how you can install a refilling station at your school, business, or organization, please contact Alma Robichaux at 985-447-0868 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.