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Students Return from Alaska

Nine days spent recovering plastics from coastline

Article Date: Jul 28, 2023

Bend-La Pine students do remarkable things during the summer months. One group of high schoolers returned from a trip to Alaska in June. The sole focus of the expedition was to clean up the waters around Ketchikan.

"This trip was such an incredible opportunity, and I’m so grateful I got to be a part of it. Being on-site, doing hands-on work picking up marine debris was extremely motivating and really helped show the big picture. The plastic we were collecting was from such a wide variety of locations – a piece I found was from a company in Florida – and it helped show us just how prevalent this issue is and how plastic from across the nation can end up tarnishing the beaches of these beautiful, wild islands in Alaska.

"I’ve brought back with me increased motivation to implement change in our school district. Our actions, no matter how small, can prevent more plastic from ending up in the ocean or on beaches, and as a school district we have a huge opportunity to make large changes. We can also educate students on these matters to create mindsets that will help them live more sustainable lives in the future, which puts us in a unique position.

"All in all, this trip was really inspiring, and makes me want to help do my part to keep more plastics from entering our oceans and ending up on pristine Alaskan beaches."

- Will, Bend Senior High

"I was not expecting the amount of plastic we were able to recover from Southeast Alaska. This part of the state (and most of it) is extremely remote, and it is difficult to imagine the extent of the impact humans can have when they aren’t directly present in the environment. However, the durability of plastic made its effect on natural ecosystems possible. This expedition to Alaska has made it evident that reducing plastic manufactured and focusing research on more ways to recycle plastic is vital; if we want to protect the health of our ecosystems and contribute to a circular economy, recycling polymers is important.

"At Bend-La Pine Schools, I think that one thing we could do to reduce our plastic consumption is to remove plastic water bottles from vending machines. We already have water fountains in all of our schools and kids can bring reusable bottles or drink straight from the fountain. Also, it would be beneficial if the students learned about the trip because I think this education would influence students’ personal decisions regarding plastic or their general mindsets about sustainability."

- Izzy, Bend Senior High School