theyre working to make Turtles Against Plastic a 501c3 charitablorganization

Inspired by turtle video, Valparaiso students become activists against plastic waste

Ruthie Marfoe 16, and Hannah Donley 16, make bracelets and jewelry out of single-use plastic.

Ruthie Marfoe 16, and Hannah Donley 16, make bracelets and jewelry out of single-use plastic. (John Smierciak / Post-Tribune)

The video showed a turtle struggling to breathe with a plastic drinking straw stuck in its nose.

It prompted two Valparaiso High School students to become environmental activists.

They learned how discarded plastic containers, wrappers and other items have formed enormous floating masses in the Pacific Ocean, affecting the lives of creatures in the ocean and its shorelines.

We realized that its a humongous problem, Ruthie Marfoe said.

I dont want my children to grow up in a world where theres more plastic than fish, Hannah Donley said.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the Sierra Clubs Dunelands Group, Marfoe and Donley told how, after seeing that video last April, they formed a group called Turtles Against Plastic.

They wanted to raise awareness about the problems created by single-use plastics the items like plastic straws or bags that people use once and throw away.

They came to realize that eliminating those items from daily use, instead of throwing them into the trash or the recycling bin, is the key.

Its not easy, but its 100 percent worth trying, Donley said. Its our world, and were throwing garbage all over it.

Hannah Donley 16, and Ruthie Marfoe 16, make bracelets and jewelry out of single-use plastic.

Hannah Donley 16, and Ruthie Marfoe 16, make bracelets and jewelry out of single-use plastic. (John Smierciak / Post-Tribune)

Hannah Donley 16, and Ruthie Marfoe 16, make bracelets and jewelry out of single-use plastic.

Hannah Donley 16, and Ruthie Marfoe 16, make bracelets and jewelry out of single-use plastic. (John Smierciak / Post-Tribune)

They said the Valparaiso High School administration, at their prompting, recently banned plastic straws in the high school cafeteria.

Theyve put up signs and encouraged students to take their own bags for shopping instead of using store-supplied plastic bags.

They and a friend began making bracelets and other jewelry from plastic straws and beads.

And with their mothers help, theyre working to make Turtles Against Plastic a 501c3 charitable organization, eligible for tax-deductible contributions.

We have so much power as consumers, Marfoe said. If we use it in the right way, we can make a difference.

Hobart resident David Woronecki-Ellis, of the Dunelands Group, said hes realized he can do without straws for most drinks and use metal ones for shakes and smoothies.

Its up to us individually to make these decisions and then share them with other people, he said.

Before the students spoke, Nora Ritter-Sasse of Valparaiso told how she went through a Porter County Recycling and Waste Reduction District program to become certified as a master recycler.

Part of the program included a trip to the Diversified Recycling plant in Homewood, Ill., where materials collected in recycling programs in Chicago and Northwest Indiana are sorted in massive conveyor lines and packaged into bales.

Tim Zorn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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