ENCINITAS — Consider this: Every plastic bottle that has ever been manufactured is still on this earth in some form.
It takes 700 years for plastic bottles to decompose. Only about 20 percent are recycled.
Of the rest, many end up in the ocean and are found in the bodies of sea animals. The plastic bottles photo-degrade, sloughing off BPA, a chemical used for softening plastic.
The materials are now being found inside humans who eat seafood.
It is estimated by experts that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
Angela Georgens, 15, a student at San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas, said the problem is not going away.
“It is a problem we will have to deal with in the future and people don’t seem very concerned about it,” she said.
Georgens and her classmates, with the guidance of homeroom teacher Paul Brice, have put together a recycling program called the SDA Recycling Club, encouraging students to recycle their plastic bottles and other trash at a designated spot on campus.
Georgens said while the problem is large, a good place to raise awareness is at school amongst her peers, a student population of about 1,900.
Kevin Rojas, 17, president of the club, and the other students have built a “Giving Tree,” a place for the entire student body to deposit their recyclables. It is made of PVC pipe and large boxes surrounded with wire mesh. Then at the end of the week, clubs, groups and organizations at the school are welcome to pick up the cans and bottles and take them to a recycling center to earn money for their club.
Kevin said it is “scary” if all these items are allowed to get into the ecosystem unabated.
“It’s a big issue,” he said. “If we don’t stop it, it breaks down to microscopic (size) and it can get into our food. The fish, the seagulls are affected as well.”
He said he and Brice are in the process of making videos to show to the rest of the homerooms to get them on board for the project.
The project is funded by the school’s foundation and Home Depot.
According to the environmental group Ban the Bottle, Americans used 30 billion plastic bottles last year.
There are ways to cut down on that number. People can buy and use reusable water bottles. Cardboard single-use water bottles and now aluminum bottles are also available.
“Aluminum is recycled more regularly than plastic bottles,” said Gulshan Kumar, 26, who founded PathWater with two friends.
“Currently there are countries banning plastic bottles,” Kumar said. “The Salinas School District no longer sells water bottles to students. I have talked to from 3,000 to 5,000 middle school to high school students. They are very receptive. The cool thing is they are learning about all this stuff already.”
PathWater’s bottle can either be refilled or replaced. He said people want to buy new ones because the old get damaged or lost, he said.
PathWater can be purchased either by single bottle or in packs. One bottle costs $1.89.
To learn more, call (650) 740-1418 or visit PathWater on facebook.