In the last two months, students and teachers from Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) have collected over 10,000 plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans to raise money to buy lifestraws for countries with unsafe drinking water.
SAMOHI is participating in the Lifestraw Challenge which hopes to raise enough money to buy one million straws. Each lifestraw costs approximately $5.50 with shipping, so with the California Redemption Value set at 5 cents per container, it takes about 110 recycled bottles to buy one straw. The straw, which has a lifespan of one year, purifies potentially contaminated water by filtering out 99 percent of any harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
The SAMOHI faculty advisor for the Lifestraw Challenge, Marine Biology Instructor Benjamin Kay, told the Mirror “ I was initially hesitant about joining the Lifestraw Campaign because I didn’t want to encourage my students to over consume single-use plastic beverage containers. However, until recycling becomes a conscious habitual daily action practiced by everyone, there is still room to promote awareness. The sheer volume of recyclables we have amassed is getting students to think about waste reduction, and more students are switching to stainless steel reusable water bottles.”
Kay first learned about the Lifestraw Program from award winning Gabrielino High School teacher Michael Winters. He and his Green Dream students developed the program in San Gabriel, California and then partnered with the Community Without Walls organization and the Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoot Program.
“Recycling is the first step to get people to think sustainably,” explained Kay, “and the next step is for people to use reusable items.” The best way to have a “smaller footprint on the planet earth” is to reduce our use of wasteful products such as single-use plastic bags and water bottles because they are not biodegradable. He stressed that recycling should really only be for products that cannot be recycled.
SAMOHI’s Lifestraw program will be continuing through the summer with students continuing to obtain materials to recycle from local businesses such as gyms and restaurants. Kay is also shopping around to get the best rate for the recyclables. “Once you recycle over 50 items, the money received is determined by weight not the number of items so you get less money.” He also mentioned that right now the students have to sort the recyclables based upon the numbers printed on their bottoms. They are looking for a company that also takes care of the sorting process.
Kay believes the Lifestraw Challenge is a “win for the environment and a win for the an underserved community.”
The City of Santa Monica’s Solid Waste Management department recently donated 20 outdoor recycling–trash cluster bins to SAMOHI to encourage recycling on campus.