Tri-Cities' SUPER students pushing politicians to ban single-use plastics

·3 min read
Members of the SUPER team, shown here making a presentation in Coquitlam, will meet with B.C.'s Environment Minister on Thursday. From left to right, Ethan Maglio, Jack Cerney, Rasee Kachchakaduge and Roxanna Ferdowsi. (submitted by Harriette Chang - image credit)
Members of the SUPER team, shown here making a presentation in Coquitlam, will meet with B.C.'s Environment Minister on Thursday. From left to right, Ethan Maglio, Jack Cerney, Rasee Kachchakaduge and Roxanna Ferdowsi. (submitted by Harriette Chang - image credit)

A group of students from the Lower Mainland's Tri-Cities will be at their persuasive best Thursday when they meet with Environment Minister George Heyman.

The message they plan to deliver: for the sake of their future, communities must be given the power to ban single-use plastics.

"We don't want him to just consider giving municipalities the choice to ban plastics," said 11-year-old Mundy Road Elementary student Violet Drazenovic. "We want him to do it now instead of waiting."

Drazenovic is one of the youngest members of the SUPER team — short for Single-Use Plastic Elimination Reinforcement — which came together last year with a goal of doing something good for the environment.

Under the stewardship of Coquitlam school counsellor Harriette Chang, the students researched plastics pollution, chose their cause and plotted strategy.

But when they began approaching local politicians in Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, they were surprised to learn that even when citizens and city councils support banning single-use plastics, it's the provincial government that has the final say.

Roxanna Ferdowsi says the SUPER team will try to convince Heyman that needs to change.

"Our original plan was to go to Victoria and meet with him, but that was cancelled due to COVID several times, so now we're doing it over Zoom," said the Grade 12 student at Dr. Charles Best Secondary. "We have a PowerPoint [presentation] and we're going to express our concerns and we have a few questions."

A discarded plastic bag is pictured with the Vancouver skyline in the background.
A discarded plastic bag is pictured with the Vancouver skyline in the background.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

After presenting at Port Moody city council, the SUPER team scored a victory last month when a draft bylaw to ban single-use plastics passed first and second reading.

The proposal will go to a third and final reading later this month. If accepted — by council and the province — most plastic checkout bags, styrofoam food containers, plastic stir sticks and drinking straws will be outlawed within the city starting April 22, 2022.

Ferdowsi thinks now that Port Moody is on board, there's pressure for Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam to follow.

"Our idea was that we would have a little competition within the Tri-Cities for who could ban plastic first. And Port Moody was thrilled by the idea and they wanted to be the first," she said.

Chang said what began as a tiny seed of an idea among students, has blossomed into a big and beautiful initiative that fills her with pride.

"It's about empowerment. It's about this generation speaking up and having a voice and doing something they feel passionate about for their future and their world," she said.

Addressing a cabinet minister might be a little nerve wracking, said Drazenovic, but the team has put in the work to be ready.

"I'm really excited," she said. "I've had Zoom meetings with the other people presenting and with Ms. Chang and we've talked about what's going to happen and how we present it."

The B.C. government approved single-use plastics bans in Surrey, Nanaimo, Rossland and Esquimalt earlier this year.

Last year it granted approval to Victoria, Richmond, Saanich, Tofino and Ucluelet.