Young advocates push
their concerns before Council

Osoyoos Council has a couple of new initiatives to ponder, compliments of Osoyoos Secondary School students.

Grade 11 students from the school Tuesday made two presentations to Council as part of their English 11 programming, asking the Town to ponder a more robust program to remove cigarette butts from the community and to ban plastic straws in restaurants.

The first group — Seth Kriese, Faith Stark and Rheanna Harfman — asked Council to provide for more receptacles for cigarette butts, especially in community parks and along its waterfront. They also asked that the butts be recycled rather than added to the landfill.

“One cigarette butt soaked in a litre of water for 96 hours leaches out enough toxins to kill half of the fresh water and salt water fish exposed to them,” Seth told Council.

“We are recommending that the Town starts to recycle the cigarette waste that it collects,” the trio suggested, introducing to Council to TerraCycle, a US-based company that is attempting to eliminate the idea of waste “by recycling the non-recyclable.”

That brought interest from Mayor Sue McKortoff, who asked the students to send information about the company and its initiative to her.

A second duo — Holly Duguid and Patty Bratton — proposed the Town enact a bylaw to ban plastic straws “in all establishments in town.”

They provided information that suggests local restaurants would benefit economically by reducing consumer dependence on straws.

“Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to marine life today,” explained Holly. “Plastic straws represent a big part of the plastic pollution. They are one of the top ten items that are picked up from beaches.

 

“People in Canada throw away more straws every day than there are Canadians.”

Although the students — who were supported by about a dozen of their peers — were appearing as part of a class curriculum, teacher Sarah Gilchrist said the causes are close to student hearts.

“The second part of the project was to decide on an issue of passion for themselves, something that they cared about,” explained Ms. Gilchrist. “They chose a variety of issues, most of them environmental.”

That’s also the hope of at least one of the presenters, Seth Kriese saying he’s expecting Council to act on the students’ concern.

“I hope they join TerraCycle and that they introduce the receptacles to the beaches and parks,” he said. “I see too many cigarette butts and they eventually get into our lake.”

The student presentations seemed to impress Council, all of whom expressed encouragement and gratitude for the messages shared.

“This is the most exciting thing for me, when young people come in here and tell us what to do,” said Coun. Mike Campol. “I hope to see more of this from the general public, from the school system and see more involvement from young people coming in and helping us solve problems.”

That could come sooner than later.

Ms. Gilchrist said several other initiatives weren’t presented to Council but were expressed in other forms, including documentary film and publication to the web.

Those included an initiative to curb the burning of orchard waste in the valley and instead send trees and other green matter to wood chippers, building awareness about cellphones and their negative impact on human health, an exploration of Osoyoos Lake’s water quality and researching ways to preserve indigenous languages.

“The issues have currency,” said Ms. Gilchrist. “They’re already being talked about. I feel like they’ll have no problem getting some action on this.”

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