Recycling graphic

Eighth graders at Exploris Middle School on Hillsborough Street are working to spread awareness of the environmental dangers of single-use plastic bags and pushing for stores to charge for them, according to Teagan Grantz, one of the students. 

Students Grantz, Bailey Hatchett, Nina Olshansky, Lucinda Lietz and Finley Gantt who attend the project-based charter school, chose to look into ways to prevent plastic bag use for North Carolina citizens.

Students at Exploris had three weeks to work on a project related to what they had learned about water. According to their teacher, Cori Greer-Banks, after the project was over, the group continued to work and talk to people under her supervision. 

Originally, the students wanted to convince the state of North Carolina to outlaw plastic bag usage, but after a conversation with Raleigh Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin, they realized that they would not be able to ban the use of plastic bags in stores.

Olshansky said their conversation with Baldwin taught them the idea of completely banning plastic bags “caused a lot of drama” with the city counselors, which led to the topic not being discussed.

Don’t Waste Durham, an organization that tries to convince people to reduce plastic waste, became a primary contact for the group, according to Olshansky. They learned about how to push for legislation against plastic bag usage.

Now the students want to convince people to bring reusable bags with them for shopping. They also want stores to start charging for plastic bags, proposing a 10-cent fee per bag, according to Grantz. 

“It might seem like a hassle to a family, but it’s really not that hard to switch from plastic to reusable bags, and it’s not that expensive, and it could make an impact in the long run,” Olshansky said.

Lietz said she saw a fact during her research that said that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

The project was also run by Design for Change, an advocacy organization that inspires children to develop projects to make a positive impact.

Design for Change has an international conference to which students can submit their projects to get an invitation. Greer-Banks believes that they will be invited, but the girls are still waiting for an answer.

Greer-Banks said the students led the project on their own, and she only served as an advisor to them and liaison for certain interviews.

“They spearheaded it all on their own,” Greer-Banks said. “Every science class, they would sit around the table, they would put together interviews, they would conduct more research, and they really took it away.”

Greer-Banks said she was surprised to see the students got the chance to speak with Baldwin, and said the girls are so invested in this project that they kept working on it, even after the project was completed in class.

“They continue even after the grade is done, after the project is officially done in the school,” Greer-Banks said. “The rest of this is completely on their own.”

Greer-Banks said she continues to advise the students and be a mentor for them.

The group will be doing a presentation of their project at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at the Groundhog Day event on Sunday, Feb. 2.