Trash Club Pushes For Styrofoam Ban


Lauren Cincotta

Members of the Trash Club meet with the mayor, William Reichelt, to discuss a styrofoam ban in West Springfield.

Lauren Cincotta, News Editor

Youth environmental activism is making global headlines. From staying out of school on Fridays to protest inaction by elected officials to massive climate strikes across the world, young people are doing their part to raise awareness and make changes to address the climate crisis. On a local level, several people at WSHS are doing their part to reduce their environmental impact. To address the school’s impact on the environment, new recycling changes have been made in the cafeteria. Recycling stations have been set up reminding students what is okay to recycle and how to properly do it. Additionally, the cafeteria has switched from plastic to biodegradable cutlery, napkins made from recycled material and has completely eliminated single use straws. 

Even though students might not consider their own personal impact all the time, these changes matter. According to Photography teacher Ms. Lepine, “If each West Side student used a spoon or fork daily, that adds up to 216,000 pieces of plastic going into the landfill each year.” By using biodegradable products in the cafeteria, WSHS is reducing the amount of plastic in landfills, a substance that can take nearly 1,000 years to break down. These changes help to make students more aware of the impact they can have and ways to improve their environmental citizenship. 

A new club has formed during this year’s first Terrier Block session, aimed at making a difference in our school and beyond. The Trash Club is advised by English teacher Mr. Johnson. The goal of this group of students is to pass a ban on styrofoam products, such as food containers in West Springfield. Styrofoam, a material commonly used in food packaging, is cheap and convenient, which drives its production. Producing styrofoam emits even more harmful gases into the ozone. There are also negative health effects on the human body, as styrofoam is produced with several neurotoxins and some substances thought to be carcinogenic. Consuming food or beverages packaged in styrofoam causes traces of these substances to enter the human bloodstream. This can cause headaches, fatigue, and in extreme cases disruption of kidney function. 

““We can’t make any changes if people don’t know about the problem.”

— Isabella Carter

Aside from health effects, styrofoam also negatively impacts the environment because it cannot be recycled, leaving it to sit in landfills where it does not decompose and instead it breaks into micro-plastics continuing to cause harm to the environment. “The amount of styrofoam cups produced each day could circle the equator if lined up end to end,” explained Trash Club member Eleni Kantos. Statistics like this one are part of the reason Trash Club decided  to take up this cause. They were also inspired by bans in other communities and schools like the ban of styrofoam trays that Mr. Johnson’s daughter helped establish at her school. Several other communities including Amherst, Greenfield, and towns in the eastern part of the state have enacted styrofoam bans. The state of Maine has banned styrofoam entirely as of this past year. “A lot of other communities have figured out things like this, we just want to be one of them,” said Mr. Johnson. 

To achieve this goal, Trash Club members having been working enthusiastically to reach out to the community. Members have put in ample time outside of the club to present to middle school student council members, collect signatures for petitions, and contact elected officials. “I’m so proud of the work that this group has done,” added Mr. Johnson. The students in the Trash Club want the community to be informed about the issue so they will be inspired to act. “We can’t make any changes if people don’t know about the problem,” said Isabella Carter. These students are inspired by the possibility of making the world better for future generations.

On November 20, students in the Trash Club presented to West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt. The students presented their research and explained their desire to see styrofoam banned in West Springfield. The mayor supported student’s effort. The members of the Trash Club will present their proposal to the town council in January.