A forest stream littered with plastic debris.

A Community Approach to Reducing Single-Use Plastic Beverage Bottles

George Mason University and community partners will lead a project to inspire a reduction in single-use plastic water bottle use behavior of students at two high schools in Prince William County, Virginia.

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Mid-Atlantic 

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2022

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, George Mason University will collaborate with Keep Prince William Beautiful , Prince William County Public Works Watershed Division, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and Prince William County’s Freedom and Patriot High School within Prince William County Public Schools to reduce student dependence on single-use water bottles and prevent them from becoming marine debris. 

What is the project and why is it important?
Single-use plastics are often used for an extremely brief amount of time before being discarded, and single-use beverage bottles and caps were among the top ten items recorded during the International Coastal Cleanup in 2019. This pilot project aims to raise awareness of single-use beverage bottles, connect participants to the impacts of marine debris to the environment, expand participation in clean-up efforts, and change behaviors around the use of disposable water bottles at two high schools. George Mason University and partners hope to help Virginia residents and students better understand the impacts of mismanaged land-based litter and single-use plastic bottles on the local watershed.  

Through this project, George Mason university will reach 20 teachers and 40 Prince William County high school student delegates, whose efforts will impact the behavior of thousands of students at Freedom High School, located near Neabsco Creek, and Patriot High School. George Mason University will utilize Community-Based Social Marketing principles to raise awareness of and connect participants to the impacts of marine debris on the environment, expand participation in clean-up efforts, and change disposable water bottle use behavior at the high schools. Student-developed campaigns will include collecting pre- and post-disposable bottle usage data at schools, surveying barriers to and benefits of using refillable bottles, soliciting public peer commitments in exchange for receiving a reusable bottle, and a social media outreach campaign, through which students will aim to expand peer attendance at county cleanups and develop a video series on the environmental impacts of plastics.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Last updated Fri, 08/11/2023 - 02:50 pm EDT