Salem Sound Coastwatch’s Talking Trash for Clean Oceans Internship for high school students has achieved remarkable success in preventing and reducing marine debris while empowering teens to become environmental stewards. The NOAA Marine Debris Prevention Through Education and Outreach Program chose The Talking Trash for Clean Oceans Internship to be one of ten national programs to fund in 2015.
“Talking Trash” is now funded by strong local support and in its third year has expanded to include communities from Gloucester to Lynn. The program has had 28 participants over three years and has reached thousands of people through education, outreach, public art and public advocacy. Each year, Salem Sound Coastwatch invites 8-10 high school students to join them in an innovative afterschool internship in which participants gain first-hand knowledge and experiences of plastic pollution and then design and implement service projects which tackle the root causes of this issue. Throughout the program, teens are exposed to professional and scientific work regarding marine debris, make connections with municipal officials and businesses, participate in city committees and gain valuable leadership and project management skills. The interns’ projects have spanned a wide range of disciplines including public art, innovative recycling, education and even political action. These projects have achieved success by reaching out to community partners including Salem Recycles, Boat US Foundation, the Salem City Council, Salem city planners, Sierra Club, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and Salem Public Schools.
The stand out projects for 2015 and 2016 are listed below. Salem Cigarette Recycling: Two students worked with Salem Recycling Committee and Salem Cigarette Recycling Sub-Committee on re-branding and improving the cigarette recycling initiative. This program involved installing recovery bins for cigarette butts which are sent to TerraCycle, an innovative recycling company, to be recycled into vinyl decking. This process prevents thousands of cigarette butts from flowing into the ocean each year. The two participants monitored collection bins, reported their usage, mapped their locations and provided recommendations for re-location based on their usage. Paint for the Park:Two participants worked on a public art project inviting residents to paint trash barrels at Salem Willows with marine debris and ocean related themes to boost their usage at public parks. Eight barrels were painted and initially housed at Salem Willows, and now are distributed throughout the city. Drain SmART Salem- One participant created, coordinated and implemented a public art campaign called “Drain SmART Salem”, calling local artists to submit designs for ocean and marine debris related murals to be painted at storm drains in Salem. The designs called attention to the connection between storm drains and the ocean and their ability to transport pollutants from the street to the marine environment. Twelve artists were selected, and fifteen murals were painted in the downtown district of Salem. The teen who created this project worked closely with city art planner, Deborah Gree! and the Salem Public Art Council. This teen has returned for the third year of “Talking Trash” and will be expanding this campaign to areas outside of Salem’s downtown district. Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance- Two participants wrote and spearheaded the passage of a city ordinance for the reduction of plastic shopping bags in Salem, which passed last December and goes into effect January 2018. The group worked closely with Salem City Councilors, the Salem Recycling Committee, Sierra Club and representative from the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Marblehead, Massachusetts. They presented before the Salem Board of Health convincing them to pass a resolution to support a City Council Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance. This project truly illustrates the influence that passionate youth have, as the ordinance would not have garnered nearly as much support from residents or success in the City Council if it had come fom someone outside of “Talking Trash”. Reusable Bag/Rack Card/Sticker- Three participants designed and distributed close to 1,000 reusable shopping bags and 300 bilingual informational rack cards and stickers detailing the issues of marine debris and how to reduce daily plastic consumption. These materials were distributed at local stores and markets and educational and outreach events and were free of charge. This group met with a graphic designer who helped them better understand the power of branding and how to create a simple but effective logo. The bags and rack cards were so successful that another 1000 of each were ordered are still being distributed at outreach and educational events. The bag, card and sticker share the same logo for successful branding and present the question of “Where Does Your Trash Go?” Monofilament Recycling- One participant created a monofilament (fishing line) recycling program in Salem and continued the program already established in Beverly.
This program aims to recover old fishing line for recycling and prevents marine entanglement. Three PVC recovery bins were built and one was installed at a popular fishing pier at Salem Willows Park. Another bin will be installed at Glover’s Wharf in Beverly next spring. SSCW manages the bins. Bins are emptied once full, and all collected mono-filament is sent to the Berkley Conservation Institute where it is recycled into fish-habs, structures that promote and even create habitat complexity in aquatic environments. The program has been working well thus far; people are very curious as to the nature of the bins and are starting to request them at public fishing areas around the area. The group worked closely with the Salem and Beverly Harbormaster and communicated often with Maren Olson of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and representatives from the Boat US Foundation. The Talking Trash for Clean Oceans Internship represents a chance for high school students to create positive change in their community. They focus on an issue that they are passionate about, use their knowledge of their own communities and rally community partners, educators, local politicians and business owners behind the common cause of reducing marine debris and its negative effects on the marine environment. In the process, they meet, discuss important issues and work with adults as equals -an experience that empowers them to take ownership of their ideas, broaden their career awareness and creates life-long stewards of the environment.