Last Tuesday, students from Bandon High School’s Surfrider Youth Club joined students from Sunnyside Environmental School at the Capitol in Salem to testify on HB 2762, a bill that would eliminate the use of polystyrene lunch trays in schools. Ten students from our youth club were joined by teacher Trent Hatfield and made the long haul from Bandon in order to testify in front of the Senate Committee on Education as well as take a quick tour of the Capitol. The bill passed committee today and is on it’s way to floor for final reads.

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Students from Bandon High School, Teacher Trent Hatfield (center) and Oregon Policy Manager (right) in Governor’s Office

This fall, our youth club in Bandon, sponsored by the Coos Bay Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, officially got off the ground launching new programs, organizing and campaign efforts within the Bandon community. By December, they had started their very own Blue Water Task Force Program. By the end of  January, they had initiated a rise above plastics campaign to reduce plastics within their school under the campaign moniker “Make Loam not Foam“. The goal of the campaign was to raise enough money to supply their school with compostable lunch trays instead of the nasty polystyrene ones they saw go in the garbage by the hundreds every day. “We see the gulls picking through this stuff everyday behind the school, just blocks from the ocean where much of this stuff eventually ends up and never goes away” said student Paige Smith, one of the club’s leaders. “It just sits in these animals stomachs starving them and we also later find it as marine debris on our beaches,” she continued, underscoring the ubiquitous nature of this type of plastic in our marine environment.

In March as the legislative session was gearing up, some students from Sunnyside Environmental school, also recognizing the environmental and health challenges of polystyrene, caught the attention of SE Portland’s Representative Nosse, who quickly drafted up a bill to eliminate these things in schools statewide. Soon, students and educational leaders were making strong voices to help support the bill, but there was a lack of coastal presence and support for the bill – enter Bandon High School’s Loam not Foam crew!

The bill aligned perfect with their local campaign work and was headed to the Senate Committee on Education, a committee with two key coastal Senators, Chair Roblan and Member Kruse from the student’s district. So the kids organized, researched their arguments, prepared testimony and hopped on the bus to Salem! We’re super proud of these kids and the inspiring testimony can all be viewed online here (skip to 28 min.) – seriously, check out some of the testimony, lots of great stuff from the kiddos and quite a few comic moments.

HB 2762 passed out of the Senate committee unanimously today and we’re extremely excited for some fantastic progress in our plight to rise above plastics and help prevent marine debris!