Students from Walnut Grove Secondary School, under the guidance of teacher Tim Stephenson and engineer Peter Kopic, have been building a plastic shredder as part of the engineering club. The goal is to repurpose plastic bottles and containers into long term products, to keep them from getting into the landfill. (Special to Langley Advance Times/Tim Stephenson)

Students from Walnut Grove Secondary School, under the guidance of teacher Tim Stephenson and engineer Peter Kopic, have been building a plastic shredder as part of the engineering club. The goal is to repurpose plastic bottles and containers into long term products, to keep them from getting into the landfill. (Special to Langley Advance Times/Tim Stephenson)

Walnut Grove Secondary students engineer plastic shredder to tackle climate change

Local secondary kids participated in province-wide educational program

Walnut Grove Secondary School students are among a select group across the Lower Mainland to take part in a pilot program that aims to empower kids to tackle climate change, plastic waste and recycling initiatives.

“Marine plastic pollution is a global challenge facing the world today and programs such as this that focus on education and empowering students are making a difference,” said Tim Stephenson, an educator at the local secondary school.

Closing the Loop on Plastics is a six-week educational program offered by Return-It and Ocean Wise targeted at youth across the province.

“It is really an opportunity provided to the students who make up the Walnut Grove community,” said Stephenson. “Through programs like this one we are empowering these future leaders to have a voice in the climate change conversation locally in our community, our school and the province.”

READ MORE: Recycling broken or burnt string lights can reduce holiday landfill waste

Stephenson led the school’s Green Team, where a group of students, as part of the engineering club, worked to build a plastic processing machine with a goal of repurposing plastic bottles and containers into long term products.

“The plan is students will collect, sort and shred in a partnership with Plastic Oceans Canada,” Stephenson said.

The program was held in a virtual online classroom that directly connected participating Grade 9 and Grade 12 students to mentors and experts in the recycling and plastic diversion community.

“Assignments include personal waste audits where students review what is in their household garbage, running an individual or small group shoreline cleanup, developing plastic alternatives and ideas to address plastic pollution, Stephenson explained.

READ MORE: Return-It depots change beverage container deposits from 20 to 10 cents

“These inquiries both challenge and deepen student understanding of this multi-sided environmental issue,” he further elaborated.

The program concluded ahead of winter break, Dec. 17.

“It can be challenging as a teacher, especially during COVID with the restrictions on field trips, to bring the material alive and relevant,” Stephenson said. “Working with Ocean Wise and Return It helps us connect the students with real world problems and real world solutions.”

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