Ryan Evans, 10, carries a sign and plastic bags into the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Evans is part of the Brandywine Sprouts, a group campaigning to ban the use of plastic shopping bags statewide.

Ian Gaadt, 9, of the Brandywine Sprouts, walks through the Delaware Museum of Natural History as the Bag Monster. / The News Journal/DANIEL SATO

BringYourOwnBag Delaware

Kids' pitch: Ditch the plastic bags
Youngsters on mission for statewide ban
May 22, 2012 |

The News Journal

Ten-year-old Ryan Evans says he is the “main wearer”

of the Bag Monster, but his 11-year-old sister Lauren

and the other Brandywine Sprouts kids all spend time

in the costume – made up of 500 plastic bags – to show

people how many bags the average American uses in one year.

The Brandywine Sprouts, a group of kids from a handful of families in Brandywine Hundred, Chadds Ford and the Kennett Square area, are trying to get more people to use fewer plastic grocery bags. In fact, they have been on a mission to make Delaware the first state in the U.S. to ban them, though just last week Hawaii stole that title.

The Sprouts are part of the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program, which aims to empower young people to make a difference for people, animals and the environment. The Sprouts were founded by Ryan and Lauren’s mom, Dee Durham, and 9-year-old Ian and 12-year-old Guilia Gaadt’s mom, Suzanne.

“We were just trying to get the kids involved in environmental issues and educate them about sustainability isses and conservation issues,” Durham said. “We took them to farms, the landfill, compost facilities, on hikes, overnights at Ashland ... but as they got older we looked for a meaty project ... something we thought we could tackle.”

The kids are passionate about their “Bring Your Own Bag” mission, especially after learning that the polyethylene offenders can harm wildlife, “especially [sea] turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish,” said 11-year-old Skyler Wick.

“For me, it’s important because they are polluting everything. There are bags everywhere,” said 10-year-old Mackenzie Fulton.

The Sprouts, whose campaign has been part of the Delaware Museum of Natural History’s “Conservation Quest” exhibit since March, report that 37 countries and 25 municipalities in the U.S. have implemented some sort of plastic bag legislation, whether it’s an outright ban or a mandatory recycling program. They are helping draft a bill to ban the bags in Delaware.

House Majority Whip Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, is happy to have the Sprouts on the task. She wanted a bag ban four years ago when she sponsored a bill that requires Delaware retailers with 7,000 or more square feet, or three or more locations statewide, to establish in-store bag recycling and offer reusable bags.

 “You see plastic bags hanging from trees like Christmas ornaments. They’re not biodegradable, animals are ingesting them,” Longhurst said. “It’s encouraging to see young people taking a role in the environment. ”

Longhurst and others are meeting with retailers over the next several months to seek input on how a ban might work in Delaware and what impact it might have on the economy.

Collin O’Mara, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, was part of a successful plastic bag ban in San Jose, Calif., and would also like to gather more data on the environmental impact of plastic bags in Delaware.

He said banning plastic bags can equate to thousands of dollars of savings for some retailers, which would no longer need to purchase them or worry about removing them from their parking lots. Those savings can be passed on to consumers.

“I do the Christina River cleanup and on the beach there always tend to be tons of bags. ... It’s sheer volume; you can find 400 bags in three or four hours of cleaning,” O’Mara said, noting that in some U.S. cities bags get caught in water treatment facilities and “gum up the works,” leading to expensive repairs .

While the Sprouts pursue their quest to make Delaware (they have a similar mission in Pennsylvania) a better place for people and nature, they are happy to be out and about, getting hands-on experience and spreading the word.

“This is fun,” Mackenzie said. “We’re not just sitting and getting lectured.”

Contact Kelly April Tyrrell at 324-2547, or on Twitter @kellyperil.