Shelter Island students and staff will no longer be sipping through plastic straws in the cafeteria after representatives of classes in grades six through 12 joined Superintendent Christine Finn in taking a pledge to protect the environment.
The students watched a film last week on the dangers plastic poses as it so often ends up in waterways, threatening the lives of fish, turtles and other species.
The Group for the East End hosted the program at the school aiming to win the hearts and minds of more people who would recognize the importance of helping to save the environment.
“If the world continues to produce and discard plastics at its current frenzied pace, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, pound for pound, by 2050,” according to a press release issued prior to the program.
Students watched a documentary graphically showing the effects of plastics that end up in waterways.
They learned that 500 million plastic straws are thrown out each year in the United States — enough to fill Yankee Stadium nine times. Only 9 percent of plastics get recycled and straws, because of their small size, are less apt to be recycled.
According to the Group for the East End:
• During a single beach cleanup in Greenport this year, 922 plastic straws were collected.
• An estimated 50 percent of sea turtles worldwide have consumed plastic.
• 800 million metric tons of plastic are being dumped into oceans each year.
Plastic straws can’t be recycled and most end up in the ocean, where they break down into smaller pieces over time and are consumed by marine life ranging from zooplankton to whales.
The result is serious injury or death as plastic becomes lodged in their bodies, snouts and throats.
Following the film, Kristina Lange of the Group for the East End discussed the problem and answered student questions before providing each student with a stainless steel straw and cleaner.
The organization also contributed 4,800 paper straws to the cafeteria while taking the plastic straws that had been used there to art teacher Stephanie Sareyani for projects in her classes.
Superintendent Finn joined student representatives Johanna Kaasik, Kathryn Gulluscio, Angelina Rice, Valeria Reyes, Tyler Gulluscio, Jane Richards, Nicholas Labrozzi and David Neese in pledging “to make a concerted effort to use alternatives to plastic straws, such as stainless steel or paper.”