By Isla Duckett
Having grown up and spent my entire life in Westborough, I am filled with many mixed emotions as I anticipate my departure from my home town. I am excited, nervous, and full of anxious anticipation and a bit of trepidation as I find myself heading off to college. I will miss many things about Westborough.
However, what I will not miss about our town is the seemingly never-ending waste, neglect and disregard for the environment in the very places that have been the sites of many of my happiest memories. The Town of Westborough, and in particular the Westborough Community Land Trust, strives to acquire and maintain the town's green spaces to preserve wildlife, protect natural resources, and provide open areas for residents to enjoy. Unfortunately, I have seen countless examples of littering in natural spaces, for example at the reservoir, around the banks of Mill Pond, and along paths that make up portions of the “Charm Bracelet.”? The most common offender is the empty plastic water bottle that is left behind after sporting events: under bleachers, in dugouts, and in the grass and trees of our school playgrounds, soccer and baseball fields.? The problem seems to have reached epidemic proportions due to the necessity for athletes to hydrate, the convenience of bottled water, and the growing athletic programs in Westborough.
The nearby town of Concord, Mass., recently voted to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. Another campaign, “Ban the Bottle,” claims that 17 million barrels of oil per year are needed to produce all the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. alone. This campaign states that Americans have consumed over 50 billion single serve bottles of water in a year. Most of these bottles end up in landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency states that the United States alone generated 31 million tons of plastic waste in a year. These huge amounts of plastic can be efficiently recycled, but left to waste will take approximately 1,000 years to biodegrade. These statistics portray just how detrimental the littering of plastic bottles can be to our planet, and the desperate need to recycle and reuse this plastic.
I believe the town of Westborough, through awareness and education, should implement measures to address this growing problem.? Ideally, we would all have reusable non-plastic bottles that we would continually reuse after each sporting event.? Until the time arrives that plastic bottles are no longer used, I would like to propose an incentive program to improve the situation.
As part of the privilege of participating in any of the town's well run sports programs each player for specific games would have the responsibility of collecting all plastic water bottles at the end of that particular game. In addition to uniforms and equipment, each team would be supplied with a specially colored bag at the beginning of each season provided by each league. Coaches would then create a bottle collection and recycle schedule. At some point prior to the next game, the designated recycler would need to bring the recyclables to the town recycling center (the dump) where the collected plastic bottles would be recycled in exchange for a voucher for a free item at a participating town business. Examples of these businesses could include Dairy Queen (ice cream for summer athletics) or Panera (hot chocolate for winter athletics).? The recycling center would bear the cost of vouchers but would gain the benefit of recycling large amounts of plastic.
Through this system, our athletic facilities and Westborough environment would remain pristine. Athletes would be responsible for their own playing fields, while becoming environmentally educated. Participating local businesses would be recognized as socially responsible organizations that care about the community.
The entire Westborough community and environment would benefit from this program. Westborough athletes would be taught to take care of their facilities as well as take care of the Earth. Through this program, children would be taught the responsibility of preserving our environment at an early age, creating an environmentally aware and friendly generation. The benefits from the program would be reaped for decades to come and result in a healthier Earth and more environmentally conscious society.