A group of Franklin County high school students and their mentor are taking the problem of litter in hand, literally.
Students against Plastic Pollution (SAPP) is on a mission. Science teacher Heidi Montgomery and her students are working to raise awareness about trash, especially in and around Apalachicola Bay.
Since the beginning of the school year, Montgomery and about a dozen of her students have met twice a month to collect litter. Last term, they raised $1,400 to post a sign on the Eastpoint waterfront for three months reminding people that plastic pollution is a problem.
On Friday, the sign came down and the group is once again seeking donations to post another billboard. Montgomery said she was disappointed they weren’t able to raise enough funds to save the first sign, “but it wasn’t a very good location,” she said.
The Apalachicola Rotary Club and the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve each donated several hundred dollars for the first sign. Montgomery said she is seeking funds again or suggestions for fundraisers.
Other projects Montgomery would like to see funded include a “bring your own bag” incentive program at local grocery stores, installation of a filtered water bottle filler for the school so kids will have options other than disposable water bottles and the sale of metal water bottles and canvas shopping bags with the SAPP logo to raise funds.
By the way, the organization doesn’t have a logo yet and they are looking for an artist to design one pro bono.
On Saturday, Montgomery’s pollution police were cleaning up the beach adjacent to the Eastpoint fishing pier.
By far, the most common litter was plastic and glass beverage bottles. A single trash heap on the edge of the brush yielded 31 beer bottles. Some other common items discarded were diapers, rope, ice bags, plastic motor oil containers, cigarette butts, food containers of all kinds and snuff cans.
Much of the litter had obviously floated ashore, perhaps discarded by boats on the bay.
Middle school science teacher Stacey DeVaughn joined Montgomery’s group in the clean up this week. Her sons Stefan and Walker are members of SAPP.
“Please tell people not to throw things out of their boats,” DeVaughn said, “Bag your trash and take it ashore.”
The environmentalists braved a grey and breezy afternoon and some very smelly trash items to do their good work.
“It’s terrible that there’s so much trash,” said Montgomery. “It’s so beautiful and it could be so much more beautiful. Who wants to eat seafood from a town that has trash everywhere?”
Several students wondered aloud if tougher enforcement of litter laws and warning signs would stem the seemingly endless flow of garbage.
More unusual items discovered were a fishing lure, a broken fishing pole, a disassembled shoe and one of the rubber pep bracelets distributed by the Franklin County School this fall.
The students took the trouble to sort and recycle much of the trash. In addition to a good feeling, they get community service time for the hours they spend collecting trash.
“That helps with college admissions and scholarship applications,” said senior Stephan DeVaugn. He said membership in the National Honor Society requires a minimum of 18 hours of community service per semester.
If you want to contribute to SAPP or to suggest a project or fundraiser, please call Montgomery at 653-5679 or visit montgomeryscience.org