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February 28, 2019 4 min read

This past weekend we joined 150 youth from around the world at Algalita’s Plastic Ocean Pollution Solutions (POPS) 2019 youth summit. We came together to learn from each other. To learn about the many ways to solve the complex issues of plastic pollution, to build team skills and to share what we’ve all been working on in our home communities. Youth took the lead at this summit, reminding us all how powerful and effective young leaders are. They presented projects, shared personal advice and motivated all participants to take charge in the global fight against plastic ocean pollution. We walked away with a deepened level of motivation knowing the movement for a cleaner world is supported by a foundation of inspiring youth leaders fighting plastic pollution.

A huge thank you to Algalita for hosting such an inspirational summit and for letting Bureo join their movement.  It’s difficult to create an atmosphere where meaningful conversation, critical thinking, and civility can thrive, we appreciate all the energy and time put in to make that a reality at this event and are grateful to have taken part in it all.

PhotoSondra Weiss 

Student-led presentations started each day, setting a supportive environment. Participants listened to a handful of student groups talk about their projects to address plastic pollution in their community. One group from northern California noticed a high consumption of boba tea in and around their school. These drinks usually come in a plastic cup, lid and thick plastic straw. This motivated them to start “Buy Better Boba,” a campaign to end the unnecessary single-use plastics used for boba tea. They fundraised money to buy glass jars, reusable lids and straws to sell to their community. Students who use their reusable boba tea jars receive 50% off at certain boba tea spots. This group highlights the importance of picking a specific problem and working to solve it. Now that they’ve started the Buy Better Boba campaign, they are planning to expand it to further their impact.

Photo: Sondra Weiss 

Next came rotating group workshops. Students were separated into groups and attended different workshops or activities to strengthen and develop key skills to better develop their plastic solution project.  One group of students accompanied Captain Charles Moore-- the discoverer of the Pacific plastic gyre-- on his boat to trawl for plastics in and around the Dana Point Harbor-- seeing the issue of plastic pollution firsthand. Another group participated in a “peeling your onion” workshop with Algalita team members to dive deeper into personal strengths and weaknesses. This workshop really dove into the theme of the summit which was “You inspire. Tell your story.” The third group of students went through mentorship sessions, where participating mentors were tasked with helping teams of students create a roadmap for achieving both their individual and group goals. Bureo was fortunate to mentor two different groups: one from Sri Lanka and the other from South Carolina.

The students from Sri Lanka attend S. Thomas’ Preparatory School in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. They brought a research paper that they had authored titled “How can the many habits that led to the adverse effects of plastic pollution in the Negombo Lagoon and its surrounding area be reversed?”  It laid out how they had studied plastic accumulation in Negombo Lagoon, a local lagoon used by fisherman. They had found staggering amounts of plastics in the water and the soil. They decided their goal is to educate their school and community about these findings to inspire people to make changes. They are also looking to get active in legislation, in the hopes of convincing government officials to start taking actions against plastic pollution.

The students from South Carolina attended a small charter school where they have already banned single-use plastic bags and bottles. They are now looking to expand their efforts to educate their peers and community members on the importance of this ban and ways to contribute to future greening of their school and community. Bureo and the team brainstormed ideas for a marine debris mural art contest and scheduled beach cleanups.

Photo: Sondra Weiss 

Apart from group workshops and motivational speakers, a poster session was held where youth from around the world shared their unique local plastic pollution solution projects. Students got to walk around and ask questions to peers about their local plastic pollution solution to get ideas about their own projects.

Kristal Ambrose of the Bahamas Plastic Movement went home with an Ocean Jenga and a Fishnet Flyer 

We walked away from the youth summit with an increased confidence in the next generation to raise up and make their voice heard. We were beyond inspired by the energy and passion seen by the participants. It served as a reminder that the youth are powerful and effective leaders. It also reminded us of the importance to think globally, while acting locally. By doing so together --- we make accelerate change. We thank the Algalita team for the opportunity to join POPS this year, and look forward to another youth summit in the near term!