CONWAY — Sen. Adam G. Hinds was visibly shocked and appalled Monday when he was informed the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into the planet’s oceans each minute, totaling 1,440 garbage trucks of plastic every day.
He seemed equally taken aback when he learned 9.2 billion tons of plastic have been produced since 1950, when Harry S. Truman was president, and 12 billion metric tons of the material is expected to be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050 if current trends continue.
But the state senator representing 52 communities in the Berkshire/Hampshire/Franklin District wasn’t hearing from a lobbyist or legislative aide. Hinds was enthralled by research detailed by Urijah Jennes and Will Dacus —two students at Conway Grammar School.
The Pittsfield Democrat stopped by to speak with Maggie West’s fifth-graders, who took it upon themselves to lead a campaign to transition away from plastic straws on school grounds. The youngsters sat with Hinds in an oval and read him prepared information. They asked some questions about his personal history and how to help the environment.
“I think we’re all conscious that this generation is much more dialed in on the environment, on personal choices and their impact on the planet, and this is another example that they’re translating that into their own activism,” Hinds said in the hallway after leaving West’s classroom. “We’ve seen this, really, all year, honestly — just that there’s a desire to be involved, and this is the latest example.”
Each of West’s fifth-graders wrote letters to Principal Kristen Gordon to express their concern for the environment and plastic waste’s effect on it. Kelsey Baker read her letter to Hinds and Natalie Wells read Gordon’s reply letter.
“By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (if no significant changes are made),” Kelsey’s letter stated.
Gordon’s letter commended the fifth-graders on their diligence and mentioned the switch to paper straws.
When the students were finished with their comments and questions, West told them this is how change is made — a small, local effort is made by passionate people who are encouraged to drive it forward. Hinds, who once worked for the United Nations for nearly 10 years, expressed his admiration for the students and talked of the omnipresence of plastic, noting that the chair he was sitting on was made of the stuff.
“Quite honestly, now that technology has caught up … we don’t have to use it,” he said, adding this his mother carries multiple metal straws with her.
One girl suggested the use of bamboo straws and one boy mentioned he uses one made of hay.
Before leaving to get back to Berkshire County, Hinds invited the Conway Grammar School students to tour the State House and presented them with a state Senate citation recognizing their dedication to a greener world and for working with administration to significantly reduce the use of plastic in the cafeteria. The citation was signed March 9 by Hinds, state Senate President Karen E. Spilka and Senate Clerk Michael O. Moore.
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