Thursday, April 11, 2024

Students Call for Plastic Reduction Ordinance in Coronado

Students urged the Coronado City Council to adopt a plastic reduction ordinance at a meeting on March 19. From left to right: Sienna Pearson, Cate Gregory, Abigail Pearson, Hannah Cohen, Charlotte Kuite, Liza Delach, Maria Laguna, Lily Enrico. Courtesy Photo / Maria Laguna

Surfers in Coronado often return to shore with handfuls of plastic wrappers, bottles, straws, and Styrofoam in their wetsuits, collecting it as they catch waves.

Six students spoke before the Coronado City Council on March 19 asking their leaders for change, while others sat in the audience holding signs of support.

“You all know that sewage on Coronado beaches is a health, environmental, and military readiness issue,” said Liza Delach, a junior at Cathedral Catholic High School and an assistant summer beach lifeguard. “But you may not know that our ocean is also full of plastics that negatively impact health, the environment, and the military.”

One by one and sharing the same slide deck, the students, who are all Emerald Keepers interns, spoke on various facets of the plastic waste issue, with a clear call to action: that the city pass a single-use plastic reduction ordinance.

Only 9% of plastic is recycled, and plastic does not biodegrade, said Cate Gregory, a student at Coronado High School.

“It is critical that this era of single-use, convenience plastics comes to an end for our planet and for our island home,” Gregory said. “Past generations have failed to protect the planet. And now it up to the next generation to clean it up. As you can see from the numbers, we cannot recycle our way out of this. It is going to take all of us changing our habits and products we use.”

Plastic-clean up efforts cost $428 million annually in California, said Maria Laguna, and marine animals eat or become entangled in plastic. She cited a study finding that nine in ten sea birds have plastic in their stomachs. (Laguna is an intern at The Coronado Times.)

“The sad part is, these animals didn’t create the problem,” Laguna said. “We did. But it’s not just marine life that is at risk. Studies show that micro nanoplastics are now in our bodies. Plastics flow in our bloodstreams and are found in women’s placentas. Male sperm rates are declining due to plastic. Our brains’ neurological development is impacted, as well as our lung health, as we breathe in nanoplastics. Plastic in our arteries has been linked to higher risk of heart disease and death.”

Laguna and her peers said the stats are a call to action the Coronado must heed.

“I’m here to tell you today that we should not use plastic takeout boxes,” said Lily Enrico, her passionate inflection punctuating her points. “It adds to the 30 million metric tons of plastic that are being dumped into the ocean each year. I know – I can’t believe it, either.”

Hannah Cohen, a senior at Coronado High School, said a single-use plastic ban in Carlsbad eliminated 1,196 tons of materials from landfills in its first year, and it was legislation met without complaint from constituents.

“The regulation of single-use plastics in Coronado offers an unprecedented opportunity to reduce plastic pollution, which is crucial to our city surrounded by water,” Cohen said. “I challenge you as our representatives to do what’s right and to do what other cities have already done. It’s up to you to protect our future.”

Abigail Pearson, a CHS student, offered an aluminum water bottle as an alternative to a single-use plastic water bottle, which contains about 240,000 pieces of microplastic.

“It’s sad, embarrassing, and disappointing that Coronado is the only beach community from Imperial Beach to Oceanside that does not have a plastic reduction ordinance,” Pearson said. “We now know what a strong plastic reduction ordinance looks like. Now is the time for action, and you can make it happen. You have the power to do what is right for our ocean, our island, my generation, and for future generations.”

The students spoke during general public comment, and the Coronado City Council cannot legally discuss an item that was not included on its meeting agenda, although it may be agendized for a future meeting.

“But on behalf of the council,” Mayor Richard Bailey said, “I do want to say thank you for your public comments and I applaud you for your poise and your advocacy today.”


Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 15 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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