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North York Students Want to Eliminate
Single-use Plastics at School

Gavin Sellars and his classmates
(Photo courtesy of
James McDonough, Alexandra Miller and their Grade 8 peers at St. Bonaventure Catholic School want single-use plastics — like straws and bottles — to become extinct.

For a couple of months, the students at the North York elementary school have been working on ways to achieve that goal — and they’re starting by tackling the problem in their community.

“(We got involved in this) mainly for our future,” said James, 13. “We want to stop animals from becoming extinct because it affects ecosystems and it affects us.”

The students got inspired to take on the issue when their teacher, Rebecca Lovisek, showed them documentaries on the topic.

“I think the facts show that we are at the stage where we may be at the point of no return in terms of the damage that’s being created in ecosystems,” she said. “We have no way of managing the waste that’s being created.”

James, Alexandra and their peers want their school to cut down on the amount of single-use plastics like yogurt containers that are found in its snack program.

We noticed there is a lot of plastic being used in it,” said Alexandra, 14. “We’re going to get rid of any plastic in the snack program.”

They are also educating other classes on how not to contaminate recycling and which plastics are recyclable.

“Our school is quite competitive, so we’re trying to use that with the snack program and we’re encouraging our school to use reusable products,” said James. “We’re putting markers on all the garbage bins and were educating the school on what goes where.”

Caroline D’Souza, St. Bonaventure’s principal, said they are proud of what the students are doing and are supporting them by looking at ways to serve the snacks without the plastics.

“They are our students. They are the present and they are the future,” she said. “Our student leadership is very vibrant, very active and their voices must be heard.”

(Photo courtesy of
Outside of school, the students aren’t alone in their efforts to reduce single-use plastics in the country.

At Toronto City Hall, councillors have requested staff to come up with a plan to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic products in all city-owned facilities and city-run events and campaigns “where feasible and practical.”

Councillors also asked staff to include in the report an outline of other options, including reusable and alternative products to replace single-use plastic products.

Also, furniture retailer Ikea has phased out single-use plastic straws from its product range and restaurants in Canada, the company announced in a May 1 news release.

Meanwhile in Quebec, Metro grocery stores are accepting customers’ reusable plastic containers and bags to package products like ready-to-eat meals, meat, seafood and pastries.

Back at St. Bonaventure, the students’ ultimate goal is to get large grocery chains like Loblaws to eliminate single-use plastics in their stores — and they have created an online petition to help achieve this.

“If we’re not going to step up, then we don’t know who will,” Alexandra said. “We just have to take action.”