Student Voices: Single-use plastics harm Los Altos community, environment

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Although single-use grocery bags are not as common as they used to be – they were banned locally a few years ago – many other single-use plastics are still prominent and can pose environmental hazards.

California emitted approximately 340 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2016. This is essentially our carbon footprint. Our carbon footprint reflects both the strengths and weaknesses of our country and local community. One of the weaknesses contributing to climate change in Los Altos is plastic usage.

Plastic in our community is significantly affecting our environment. Single-use plastics can take up to 1,000 years (depending on the type of plastic) to decompose in a typical landfill. However, plastic is produced faster than it can decompose naturally, with 300 million tons of plastic produced each year. Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans annually.

We are contributing to this damage by using plastic products, which not only harms the ocean, but also the communities we live in. We, as citizens of Los Altos, are ultimately directly damaging the Los Altos community by using single-use-plastic.

In Los Altos, many people enjoy a sweet drink called boba tea. Most companies in the boba business use plastic straws and cups. There are a staggering number of drink shops (and boba shops) opening in our community, which will cause the number of single-use plastics to continue to rise. With the rising amount of plastic usage, pollution is becoming a higher risk within our community.

To keep our community clean and safe, we must take action to improve these conditions. Although boba tea is a delectable treat, when sold with single-use plastics, it damages the environment.

Some strategies to reduce single-use plastic consumption in Los Altos include using reusable containers, recycling plastic, using compostable silverware and generally refraining from using single-use-plastic.

Besides reusable containers, recycle any plastic you use. Most plastic food packaging can be recycled if thoroughly washed.

Mayor Lynette Lee Eng of Los Altos recognizes the threat of pollution from her own experience with climate change.

“Having been raised on Oahu, I am aware and very sensitive to the harmful impact (plastic) straws have inflicted upon the sea life of the Hawaiian Islands,” Lee Eng said in an email.

The mayor said she supports a new California law that took effect this year that stops restaurants from distributing plastic straws unless a customer specifically asks for one. However, fast food restaurants aren’t affected.

Companies like Starbucks are also taking steps to become more eco-friendly. By 2020, Starbucks plans to offer straws made from paper or compostable plastic.

While this will not greatly impact our community, the local Starbucks stores set a good example for other shops and businesses.

Plastic is toxic to wildlife, and because of the large amount used, it is likely to end up in nature, where animals are in danger of ingesting it.

This proves how human actions are affecting the environment, without us realizing it. The more plastic we use, the more harm we cause our environment.

By reducing plastic usage, we can keep our planet healthy and build a better future for those who follow. Future generations depend on us to maintain a healthy and safe world.

There is no “planet B” to make up for the mistakes we make now. We write the future for those who inhabit our planet and our community after us.

Kayte Chan, Piper Chatwin, Ella Dong and Ellia Kim are sixth-graders at Bullis Charter School.

Local students interested in writing a “Student Voices” column can email Zoe Morgan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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