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Students use creativity to ease plastic pollution

Buffalo Zoo

A unique educational campaign has been launched that blends science and creativity to red-flag the dangers of plastic pollution.

More than a thousand students in about 80 local classrooms will learn about preventing plastic waste as they create works of art and produce videos.

The Buffalo Zoo launched the first phase of the program this week when it staged a professional

development day for teachers from across the region. The Zoo received a grant of nearly $20,000 from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute to help fund the initiative. It has also been working with the Erie County Department of Environment and other “environmental science partners."

Tiffany Vanderwerf, chief conservation officer at the Buffalo Zoo told WBFO one goal is to stress the direct impact that plastic pollution has on local residents, including the use of plastic bags. She said the typical plastic shopping bag is used for only 12 minutes before it is tossed out.

“Those single-use plastics end up...in our wateways,” Vanderwerf said. “ They're in our fresh water -- waterways right here near around Western New York -- and then eventually out into the ocean.”

In fact, water pollution is one of the key themes of the awareness campaign, Vanderwerf said.

Credit Buffalo Zoo

“Part of what we’ve rolled into this is not only an awareness of plastic pollution prevention, but we’ve tied that in with storm-water runoff pollution prevention, as well. So painting rain barrels and then using rain barrels to collect storm water runoff is another component.”

Decorating rain barrels will be only one creative aspect of this program. After students gain a better understanding about the dangers of plastic pollution, they will be encouraged to create different forms of artwork and produced videos on the topic.

Selected works of art will be on display at the Buffalo Museum of Science at a special art exhibit that will celebrate Earth Day next spring.

In a written statement, Erie County Recycling Coordinator Andrew Goldstein said the program's objective is to work with area educators to “creatively illustrate solutions” that ultimately reduce the need of single-use plastics.

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