The fight to bag the bag gets help from young policymakers

CRANSTON, RI (WPRI) — Tosin George was so proud of her classmates’ hard work implementing a policy and a pitch to widen the ban on plastic bags, that she wanted it on the news.

She got her wish with a very grown-up email. And after seeing the proposal Theresa Manera’s fifth grade class at Rhodes Elementary put together, the bags’ days could be numbered in the state’s recreational areas.

A school project like this might make you ask, what were you doing in fifth grade?

Many of us talk about saving the planet, but Manera’s students are trying to do something about it.

“So that people are aware of the horrible things that plastic bags do to the environment,” George said.

This year’s proposal falls under a program Menera implemented called Project Citizen, aimed at helping students understand, develop and present ideas that could help sway public policy.

One point they make in their presentations about plastic bags is how the ocean eventually turns plastic into a poison pulp called microplastics, that wildlife sometimes consumes.

“When the turtle eats it,” one of the students points out during a discussion. “It’s going to go in the digestive system.”

George offered some details to that problem.

“And once animals eat the microplastics, it breaks down in their bodies and can kill them,” she said, adding that plastic bags left intact are dangerous to children. “Kids can suffocate from them.”

Research shows that happens dozens of times a year according to George.

Manera’s kids were convincing enough to prompt a state representative to put together a referendum calling to ban the bags in all state recreational parks.

When asked if thinks there will be any plastic bags around when she’s in college, Tosin shook her head.

“I hope not.”

The young public policymakers are heading to the statehouse next week for a tour, and potentially to make an impact on the leaders their parents elected.

Send your story ideas to Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow us on Twitter:@StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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