During the 2018-19 school year, teams of middle schoolers tackled the problem of plastic pollution in our waterways with the National Geographic GeoChallenge. First-place teams from sixteen regional competitions traveled to the 2019 Geo Championships in Washington, D.C. in May 2019. This blog series introduces you to each of those teams in their own words.* Registration for next year’s #NatGeoChallenge opens in August at NatGeoEd.org/GeoChallenge.
Meet Team Stickers!
Small-sized stickers, when washed off produce, are not able to be extracted from waste water at treatment facilities and thus end up as microplastics in waterways. Team Stickers seeks to encourage fruit growers to replace current fruit stickers with an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable version. The team coordinated with a local water treatment facility to assess the magnitude of the problem and a produce company to assess the feasibility of their solution.
From: Madison Junior High, Idaho
Team Motto: A Smart Solution to a Sticky Problem
List one way you’ve changed your single-use plastic use: For starters, we remove the stickers off fruits and vegetables and throw them in the garbage. We also stopped using straws. Contacts go in the garbage, not down the sink. While walking around the neighborhood, we are more conscious of trash and pick it up.
The biggest obstacle you had to overcome as a team: Time management. We are all on the track team and have sacrificed many Saturdays and late after track hours to expand our project. As a team, we all work to contribute equally.
Favorite moment at the regional competition: We enjoyed the interacting with the National Geographic GeoBee contestants when they visited us during the showcase. We like our project and have enjoyed all the opportunities we have had to express the importance of why stickers need to be thrown out (at least until our biodegradable sticker can replace the vinyl ones we currently use!)
A part of the world I’d like to explore is… New Zealand to meet the high schoolers who produced a biodegradable sticker.
Registration for the 2019-2020 National Geographic GeoChallenge opens in August.
*Team responses have been lightly edited for grammar.