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University of Hartford Students Reveal Debris Study Findings to CT Senator Kennedy and Environmental Advocates


Posted 06/23/2016
Posted by Sophia Olsen


University of Hartford Students Gabrielle Dabrowski'17 and Isabelle Barere'17 show Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. several pieces of trash that they collected at Hammonasset during their study of marine debris in Connecticut. They collected 1,600 pieces of debris, 76% of which were discarded plastic products, over the course of this study. They delivered their findings and recommendations to Kennedy and Environmental advocates today at the Meigs Point Nature Center in Hammonasset Beach State Park.

University of Hartford Students Gabrielle Dabrowski'17 and Isabelle Barere'17 show Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. several pieces of trash that they collected at Hammonasset during their study of marine debris in Connecticut. They collected 1,600 pieces of debris, 76% of which were discarded plastic products, over the course of this study. They delivered their findings and recommendations to Kennedy and Environmental advocates today at the Meigs Point Nature Center in Hammonasset Beach State Park.

This release was published by the Senate Democrats.

MADISON, CT - While hundred of people flocked to Hammonasset Beach State Park to enjoy the warm summer weather, Senator Ted Kennedy, Kr. (D-Brandford) met with University of Hartford Students at the Meigs Point Nature Center to discuss the problem of marine and beach debris. The students conducted a semester-long study on the sources of this debris and delivered their recommendations to Kennedy and members of the Friends of Hammonasset and the Citizens Campaign for the environment. 

“Long Island Sound is the keystone environmental asset in the state of Connecticut, and we need to ensure that it is protected from plastic waste and other forms of contamination,” said Senator Kennedy, Senate Chair of the Environment Committee. “The University of Hartford Students and Professor Owens have done an impressive job cataloguing the source of marine debris and articulating why this is such an important issue. These students are incredible advocates, and I plan to work with them to ensure that more of their recommendations are passed into law. I have worked to pass legislation cutting down on plastic bags, microbeads, and consumer packaging waste, but there is still much that needs to be done to protect Connecticut’s beaches and waterways.”

“This issue is extremely important, because many people have a certain mentality where they believe that they don't need to care about the Earth because it won't affect their generation,” said Gabrielle Dabrowski, one of the students who participated in the study. “Unfortunately, as seen through various data recordings across the world showing rising levels of leached chemicals such as styrene and vinyl chloride, the damage has been done for many years. Ghost fishing and treated-wood docks leach chemicals into the ocean as well, showing that not only plastic is to blame.”

Professor Katherine Owens and 35 students conducted a scientific study in which they picked up garbage along the Connecticut Shoreline. During the course of this study, which was made possible by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), students gathered 1,600 pieces of debris along the beach. They then cleaned, categorized and measured the items before compiling their findings and recommendations in a report, which they delivered to Senator Kennedy.

“The fact that there are 1,600 pieces of trash that are not on the beach in Connecticut anymore is really great, especially because they are tiny pieces of plastic. They’re exactly the kind of things that make it really difficult for marine animals and birds to survive,” said University of Hartford Professor Katherine Owens. “I hope the students take away this feeling that they can solve environmental problems.”

“If you sit on the beach at Hammonasset at any time of the year you’re going to be able to fill an entire bag with garbage, just in your immediate area. A lot of it is not from the people’s behavior being deliberately negligent; it’s from lack of education. And when there are studies out here showing exactly what’s collected and how it affects the wildlife, it helps to educate people,” said Michelle Kiley, Vice President of the Friends of Hammonasset.

About 20 million tons of plastic reach the ocean annually, and while plastics comprise about 10% of discarded trash, they make up a far higher proportion of marine debris. Students involved in this study found that 76% the debris they collected were plastic items like cups, plates and plastic bags. Plastics are a particularly damaging to the environment and wildlife because they can take hundreds of years to break down and are frequently consumed by wildlife, causing injury or death.

Students encouraged the adoption of policies that would reduce the amount of plastic waste generated in Connecticut. In particular, they advocated for policies that will cut down on single-use plastic bags, and an expansion of the “bottle bill,” which significantly increases the recycling rates of glass, aluminum, and plastic drink bottles and cans.

The students applauded the work of Senator Kennedy and other legislators in passing legislation last year that will ban the sale of products containing microbeads in Connecticut. It is estimated that prior to the enactment of this law, Connecticut residents washed three tons of microbeads down the drain every year. Once entering the wastewater system, many of these tiny plastic beads find themselves carried into streams and rivers, ultimately flowing into Long Island Sound. The ability of microbeads to contaminate aquatic environments has become a great cause for concern in Connecticut and around the country. Kennedy’s microbead legislation was then used as a model for a national law passed in late 2015

University of Hartford Students Gabrielle Dabrowski'17 and Isabelle Barere'17 show Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. several pieces of trash that they collected at Hammonasset during their study of marine debris in Connecticut. They collected 1,600 pieces of debris, 76% of which were discarded plastic products, over the course of this study. They delivered their findings and recommendations to Kennedy and Environmental advocates today at the Meigs Point Nature Center in Hammonasset Beach State Park.

University of Hartford Students Gabrielle Dabrowski'17 and Isabelle Barere'17 show Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. several pieces of trash that they collected at Hammonasset during their study of marine debris in Connecticut. They collected 1,600 pieces of debris, 76% of which were discarded plastic products, over the course of this study. They delivered their findings and recommendations to Kennedy and Environmental advocates today at the Meigs Point Nature Center in Hammonasset Beach State Park.