Published on January 29, 2019

West Tisbury School Students Work to Ban Plastic on the Vineyard

Plastic Free MV students at town meeting © Plastic Free MV
© Plastic Free MV

Felix Neck Education Coordinator Josey Kirkland recently sat down with a group of 10- and 11-year-old students from the West Tisbury School who launched the group called Plastic Free MV.

Emma Bena, Bess Carbon, Emily Boyd, Quinlan Slavin, and Izzy Anthony have been working tirelessly on banning plastic non-reusable water bottles and soda bottles under 34 ounces on Martha’s Vineyard. 

They're starting with a focus on the up-island towns of West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah—but these 5th and 6th graders hope that they inspire other students in the remaining island towns to jump on board! 

Their passion and commitment to this project was an inspiration. Thanks for being Nature Heroes!

What is the goal of this project?

Izzy: To eliminate plastic on the whole island and to motivate people to make a change!

Quinlan: I am hoping that local people will realize we don’t need to make so much waste.

What inspired this idea of banning plastic bottles?

Izzy: Pictures! We googled plastics effects on the environment. Plastic is terrible and hurts the planet and animals.

Emily: We visited the local grocery store and there was an entire isle of non-reusable plastics drink bottles.

Emma: We had a meeting with local Representative Dylan Fernandez and he said “maybe next year” they would deal with the plastic bottle issue. But I thought, why not this year?

Bess: We wanted to be the first town in Massachusetts to ban both water bottles and soda! I see a lot of trash and plastic on my road. I don’t like the litter and wanted to help do something about it.

What actions have you taken already towards this goal?

Emma: We’ve attended town meetings, met with the Board of Health, talked to local business owners about how they can help and have tried to educate as many people as possible so they will help enforce it. We also worked with Joan Malkin to help write the by-law that will be on the ballot for April’s election.

Emily: We showed the film Divide and Concord at the West Tisbury Library followed with a Q&A to try and show people why banning plastic is so important.

Do you feel your age helped or hurt your progress in any way?

Izzy: I think if we had more adults involved we might get further, but we’ve made it pretty far on our own.

Bess: We are really capable of doing things!

Emma: Not sure that it has made a difference, but people have been very supportive of us. Even when we are let down, it’s been kind. We needed to start somewhere so we worked with what we had.

What has been your biggest lesson so far?

Quinlan: I have learned a lot about the process of getting laws passed in a community and it’s not easy!

Emma: I really enjoy learning about what’s going on in the community and how bylaws work and how the Board of Health operates and the process of getting things passed.

Have you experienced any low points?

Bess: Some of the town meetings have gotten nasty!

Emma: It’s been hard when people have been opposed. We also are running into people with different priorities like business owners who also serve on the Town Boards.

What has been the biggest high of this whole process?

Emma: The West Tisbury Board of Health was going to table our topic but before they were done meeting, a point was made that sick people need access to clean water. I got up and shared that there are actually chemicals that can leach into plastic water bottles and it can cause health issues and in two minutes they changed their minds and supported it!

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