Small Acts, Big Impacts: KIDS for the BAY Students Help Take on Big Plastic 

KIDS for the BAY (KftB) is excited to be a bigger part of the solution to reducing plastic pollution and microplastics in 2024. Our young Environmentalists have recorded the types and amounts of plastic pollution collected in school neighborhood, creek, bay and ocean cleanups for many years. Now we’re going a step further by tracking the brands of plastic trash they collect, as part of a Plastic Pollution Audit based on the Break Free From Plastic Guidelines. By sharing our students’ data with Earth Island Institute, our fiscal sponsor, we are helping to bring the first major lawsuit of its kind against the biggest plastic polluting corporations.

Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit against ten of the largest plastic polluting corporations in February 2020.

Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit in February 2020 against several of the biggest plastic polluting companies, urging them to find alternatives. Earth Island is “seeking to recover the significant resources it expends to prevent and mitigate the effects of plastic pollution on humans, wildlife, oceans, and waterways in California.” Earth Island is working alongside the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Shark Stewards, the International Marine Mammal Project and 1000 Fountains to hold the biggest plastic polluters responsible for widespread harmful impacts on aquatic wildlife and human health. 

KIDS for the BAY is now joining Earth Island’s efforts to hold the biggest plastic polluters accountable. By tracking plastic brands, KftB students are not only taking personal and collective responsibility for reducing plastic pollution, they are also addressing corporate responsibility for the plastic trash pollution found in their watersheds. 

Many KIDS for the BAY programs focus on the serious impacts of plastic debris and waste that travels from San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods and storm drains to creeks and eventually, the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. Plastic pollution is currently the most abundant type of litter in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. The most visible impacts of plastic debris are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Plastic trash and waste is a growing pollution problem in our neighborhoods, creek waterways, the bay, and the ocean. Macro and micro plastics seriously impact the health of all organisms and contribute to the deaths of aquatic life.

KIDS for the BAY empowers students to understand the impacts of plastic pollution on the local watershed and on human health, remove plastic pollution in trash cleanup projects, and reduce plastic trash and waste at the source by practicing the Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot). “I have seen fish that have microplastics in them. People eat the fish and then their stomach has plastic in it too. I think sometimes people don’t know that their trash can end up in the ocean and hurt animals, but if they knew that, they might not throw trash just anywhere,” said Neal, a fourth grade student at Highlands Elementary School in Pittsburg. “This is so awful that animals are dying! We could clean up trash to help the animals!” suggested Liyah, a student at Manzanita Community School in Oakland. 

KftB students record the types and amounts of plastic trash they collect during their neighborhood trash cleanups in a Neighborhood Survey.
KftB students record the brands of plastic trash they collect during their neighborhood trash cleanups in a Plastic Brand Audit, to be shared with Earth Island Institute.

KftB Environmentalists make behavior changes in their daily lives to reduce plastic waste, make pledges to protect their local environment, and lead assemblies for their peers and families to educate them about the importance of reducing plastic pollution. “I hope the audience learned to not throw trash on the ground, because of how bad it can be for animals, the world and yourself,” shared Jassari, a fourth grade student at Halkin Elementary School in San Leandro.

Since 1992, KIDS for the BAY students have collectively cleaned up 40,185 gallons of trash from school neighborhoods, local watersheds, and creek, bay and ocean habitats. We are excited to now take our efforts a step further by tracking the brands of plastic trash found in our school neighborhoods. Ouryoung Environmentalists are thrilled to help create positive change for the wider community and reduce the harmful impacts of plastic pollution.

KIDS for the BAY