Choose to reuse

Plastic Free MV wants Islanders to ditch single-use plastic bottles.

Emma Bena and Tasman Strom describe how harmful chemicals from plastics make their way into the food we eat. — Lucas Thors

Plastic Free MV held a public discussion at the West Tisbury library Thursday to educate Islanders about the dangers of plastic in the environment, and to push for the ban of single-use plastic bottles on Martha’s Vineyard.

The group of fifth graders from the West Tisbury school have been travelling from town to town, meeting with selectmen and health officials, to request putting the “Plastic Water and Soft Drink Bottle Bylaw” on town warrants across the Island.

The young environmentalists already have their bylaw on town warrants in West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah, and are looking to take the down-Island towns by storm.

And this isn’t the first green initiative the students have been instrumental in organizing and promoting — they started learning about sustainability five years ago, when Straw Free MV was created to get rid of disposable straws on-Island.

The goal of Plastic Free MV is to eliminate the use of disposable plastic water and soda bottles 34 ounces (roughly one liter) and under; gallons and large containers would still be allowed.

To make up for the lack of plastic bottles sold and distributed in Island towns, the students are advocating for convenient water refill stations in businesses and public areas.

Student Jasper Ralph said there are already about 10 refill stations on Island, but there need to be more.

He suggested having filling stations to serve customers at the Chilmark Store; in Menemsha, convenient to Menemsha Beach; and at the Aquinnah Cliffs.

He also said installing stations at Alley’s, Cronigs, and outside the West Tisbury School would greatly reduce the amount of plastic bottles in the municipal waste stream.

Another student, Emma Bena, explained to the audience how, as plastics break down, they create microplastics which are not biodegradable, and can travel up the food chain through the food we eat and the water we drink.

“Chemicals leached by plastics are in the blood and tissues of all of us; some children are even born pre-polluted,” Emma said. “Chemicals and microplastics can cause heart disease, cancer, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, and more.”

Jasper said the manufacturing of plastics uses a large amount of fossil fuels, and plastic that is discarded often ends up leaching harmful chemicals into drinking water and soil.

“Plastic is not our best or most resourceful option because it creates greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change,” Jasper said.

Some people may feel better about buying plastic that is labeled as compostable or biodegradable, but Jasper said these materials are not meant to be reused or recycled, and instead must be processed at high-heat facilities like the SEMASS facility in Rochester.

“If one piece of this plastic goes into the recycling, it can ruin the whole load of recycling because it is meant to break down,” Jasper said. “So you can see why compostable and biodegradable plastics are not the greatest option.”

Student Odin Robinson described Plastic Free’s plan to work with local businesses to design a logo that will be stamped on reusable water bottles. The bottles will also have a list of the different refill stations on-Island.

At the end of the presentation, students responded to questions from audience members.

Chilmark resident Deb Dunn first thanked the group for its dedication to helping the environment, and commended the students for an informative presentation. “You’ve obviously done your homework,” she said.

Dunn said she teaches at the M.V. Charter School where there is a water refill station, and wondered how much it costs to install one.

Emma said it costs $2,000 to install two small refill stations, and $7,000 for a large station.

Dunn also wanted to know how the students are planning to fund the stations once they are installed.

Emma said businesses can choose to fund the installations themselves, and to offset revenue loss, they can charge money for each refill.

Audience member Thomas Bena told the students they are an inspiration to him and are models for conscious and sustainable living. “I am a little embarrassed that my generation hasn’t done this before,” he said. “Thank you so much for what you are doing.”

Enforcement of the bylaw will be the responsibility of boards of health, and any first violation will result in a written warning. A $50 fine will be imposed for second violations, with subsequent violations resulting in a $100 fine. Each day the violation continues constitutes a separate violation.

The board of health can also determine at any time that implementation and enforcement of the bylaw is unreasonable.The board must notify selectmen, who will conduct a public hearing to inform citizens of the costs. The board may then continue the bylaw, or suspend it.

If the bylaw passes, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Another public forum is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 3:30 pm at the Chilmark library.


  1. What about the 10 to 12 thousand day trippers who visit each day in summer? Will they be instructed to bring water bottles them?? Most likely when they find out there’s no water available they choose to buy a soda contributing to the obesity problem in our country.

    • It’s for soda bottles, too. I think you might be confusing that they’re suggesting refill stations for water with the overall issue of single-use plastic bottles.

    • Bs- I am not trying to criticize your opinion, but your comment doesn’t make much sense.
      How does banning single use plastic bottles for both soda and water result in more soda consumption. ??? please clarify.

  2. Day Trippers, indeed!
    BS, I have heard from many people that high sugar drinks do not only contribute to obesity but also contribute to extreme fat deposits located in the human cranium, causing a condition known as “fatheads”.
    With a proliferation of obese people, who possibly might also be “fatheads, I seriously think we should consider erecting a “border fence” around our island. Many people say these “fatheads” are junkies and are predatory types, who wrap duct tape around the faces and mouths of their victims. Thank god we have a president who stands strong for the rights of all duct tape.

    • oaksbluff —I have been advocating a wall around oaksbluff for years– Of course I base that on some sort of wild idea that the people of oaks bluff are somehow different than the rest of us, and if a single person from oaks bluff commits a crime, then i am correct in my bias.

  3. bs– how does banning single use plastic bottles for both soda and water result in more soda consumption ?

  4. Where can one find the text of the “Plastic Water and Soft Drink Bottle Bylaw?” I am just curious as to what offenses the above-mentioned fines are for.

  5. Initially I missed that it was ALL plastic bottles. Now it makes even less sense. Thousands of people visit each day in the summer and have no option to buy something to drink other than in a paper or plastic cup?

    • BS the key word here is “reuse”. Like bring a water bottle with you — Virtually every store that sells bottled water will sell you a reusable bottle.

    • They make individual, small sized, boxed water now. Of course, I remember when people did not walk around with water bottles. We took thermos bottles to the beach, and washed them when we got home. Tourism has been around a lot longer than plastic water bottles. Public drinking fountains used to be largely available, too, but course, given how unkempt much of the island is now, I can’t see that working here.

  6. What outstanding young people to be so concerned and so involved in taking positive steps to be better stewards of our planet. You guys rock!

  7. I am somewhat miffed that “andrew” is not commenting here. we need to know his take on this– let’s hear both sides– after all, single use plastic bottles have saved millions from poverty — if only he could tell us how..

  8. Dondon you are misquoting me. I said fossil fuels have lifted millions out of poverty but you don’t care because you want fewer people. Do whatever you want with plastic bottles. You and your crowd want to make life harder not easier for all of us. Ride your bike to refill stations while your idols Gore and Pelosi fly to Davis and lecture deplorable son howto live.

    • Andrew –I don’t see where I quoted you . If i ever do quote you, it will be exact, and in quotes — you know, these little things ” ” .
      My “refill station” is in my kitchen, so i don’t think I have to worry about riding my bike there..
      You do seem to have some issue with me using what is arguably the most efficient form of transportation ever devised. ( A bicycle ) why is that ?

      • Yes dondondon, thank you for correction of a typo. You never miss an opportunity to take a shot at me. I have been to Davos and nothing good ever comes out of it except skiing at Klosters the Davos location, and no fossil fuels are used at for that. You would love it. It is where the elites gather and talk nonsense and try to tell the rest of us how to live.

  9. one thing that no one is bringing up here is that this island has very good water straight out of the tap. I offer a thank you to all the hard working people who do a great job of delivering clean and safe water at fractions of a penny per gallon directly into our homes. Every house, every business, and every faucet on this island is a “refill station” thanks to the various water departments here, and a precious aquifer that needs constant protection.

  10. Why dont these kids have a solution to the dog crap problem. They should institute a program to train people to pick up after their dogs. I dont even do it. The dog is so small I didnt think it was a problem. This is serious.

  11. Yes,
    The Island once did have a great Aquifer until the PFAS misuse at the Airport changed that.
    Now many can’t drink their tap water anymore, or are risk if they do.
    Would the filling stations be supplied by Municipal ground water, is that water carbon filtered?
    Charging for a drink of water on Martha’s Vineyard, seriously.
    Reminds me of a Popeye cartoon many years ago.

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