Palmer Trinity School (PTS) achieved a milestone in its sustainability efforts by becoming one of the first schools in Miami to phase out single-use plastic bottles. The school’s new policy was established in February 2019 and pledges that no PTS money will go toward the purchasing of water in single-use plastic bottles.
The commitment sprang from an initiative that started last April when Caitlin Pomerance Waks (’07), co-founder of Debris Free Oceans and PTS alumna, spoke at the school on marine debris and its harmful impacts on our oceans.
Plastic bottle waste finds its way from land into rivers and seas where it degrades into microplastics that are easily consumed by fish and sea life. Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea and if this trend continues to rise at the current rate, the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh fish by 2050, predicts the 2016 report The New Plastics Economy from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in partnership with the World Economic Forum.
“The presentation given on marine plastic pollution brought this issue to the forefront of our school’s community awareness,” stated Dr. Leopoldo Llinas, Director of Environmental Stewardship and a science teacher. It sparked students, teachers, and staff to agree to phase out single-use plastic bottled water on campus.
The administrative team adopted the proposed Plastic Bottle Free appeal with unanimous consensus in May 2018. “As a major contributor to the values, health, and well-being of our community, Palmer Trinity has a fundamental responsibility to teach sustainability and to adopt appropriate strategies and models,” Head of School, Patrick Roberts added.
Beginning in 2013, PTS began a Water Fountain Retrofit Program. All bottle-filling stations also include a filter as well as an electronic counter that tracks the number of single-use plastic bottles saved as a result of refilling. The retrofits were accompanied by an educational campaign promoting the use of refillable containers. To date, more than a dozen water fountains have been installed on campus.
To further engage the community, PTS purchased double-wall stainless steel thermal bottles in August 2018. The school community has pledged to use a refillable bottle whenever possible, drink tap water where public drinking water is available or opt to purchase beverages in aluminum cans or glass bottles.
“By educating the student population on the social, economic and environmental benefits of employing a reusable bottle, PTS has inspired students to be more environmentally conscious and to depart from the throwaway culture,” said Dr. Llinas.