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Marine debris program carries added importance during pandemic

Researchers at Duke University Marine Lab have been educating teachers and students across the state about the effects of single-use trash items
Duke University Marine Lab Marine Debris Program
Duke University Marine Lab Marine Debris Program(WITN)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT, N.C. (WITN) -

Researchers at Duke University Marine Lab have been educating teachers and students across the state about the effects of single-use trash items, a program with growing importance to the pandemic’s impact on waterways in North Carolina.

As increased takeout and delivery food service continues, experts say more and more trash is finding it’s way into those waterways across the state.

“Straws, food wrappers, take-out containers, plastic water bottles and then caps and lids-- those are things that are increasing,” explains Dr. Liz Demmatia with the Duke Marine Lab.

With tourism season coinciding with social distancing guidelines, beaches and oceans are being impacted by excess trash,” says Demmatia.

“You have an influx of people, coupled with the fact that with marine debris, 80% is generated from activities on land,”

Which is why experts at the Duke Marine Lab are educating teachers across the state through their Marine Debris Program.

The year-long program provides curriculum for teachers to incorporate with their 4th and 5th grade students statewide.

“It goes through what is plastic? What is reusable? What is biodegradable? What is compostable?” Demattia adds.

“Honestly it’s changed my habits. Teaching the program has changed my habits as an adult,” says Cristina Quattrone, a teacher who helped developed the curriculum, and has been teaching for three years.

Through creative learning methods teachers develop within the classroom, students are able to apply what they’ve learned in everyday life.

“It feels urgent. And that’s the other thing, students want to feel like in school what they do matters, and this matters,” explains Quattrone.

Participating in waterway cleanups is just one way the program helps students feel empowered.

But more importantly, teachers say it gives them a voice in their own home.

“We have our students teach their parents all the things that they learned and the feedback was great. They feel like leaders and that’s the most powerful part,” Quattrone says.

But for visitors to the coast, more people means more trash, and more trash means fuller trash cans. Dr. Demattia advises people, especially on 4th of July weekend, to dispose of beach trash at home because often times bins get full and the debris that blows away finds its way in our oceans and waterways.

Duke Marine Lab says that roughly 80 teachers across the state have taken part and progressed through their Marine Debris Program over the last four years.

Copyright 2020 WITN. All rights reserved.

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