Natick schools eliminate use of plastic straws after student effort

NATICK, Mass. — A Natick High School student is learning a powerful lesson in how small changes can make a big difference by helping to do his part in a growing national movement to ban a popular plastic item.

Natick schools go through 4,000 straws a month. When 16-year-old Clay Napurano learned that plastic straws can't be recycled because they're too small for recycling machines to sort, he requested a meeting with his state representative to draft a bill to ban plastic straws statewide.

“He told me to step down to a more local level and focus maybe on the town,” Napurano recollected. “Banning them in the town or maybe in the school.”

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So, he met with school leaders and spoke at a school committee meeting. Within a matter of weeks, the district decided to eliminate straws altogether, surprising everyone, including Napurano.

“This actually happened a lot faster than most changes would happen,” said Brian Harrigan, principal for Natick High School. “We looked at metal straws, we looked at corn or plant-based straws and ultimately in some cases the best solution is none at all.”

Straws will still be available in Natick schools for children with disabilities.

>>>MORE: Paper or plastic? Natick man pushing to have plastic bag ban repealed

So far, 115 Massachusetts cities and towns have banned plastic bags, five have banned plastic straws – though Natick is not one of them.

“Let's encourage students to go talk to the superintendent,” Napurano said. “This isn't something that I'm doing alone; I want to inspire other youth.”

It’s now been four days since the plastic straws have been put away in Natick. Napurano says students have been supportive.

“Every lunch period is like, wow they're smiling, they're happy, they're surprised,” he said.

Napurano next plans to start an awareness campaign in both the school district and in the town to educate people about what can and cannot be recycled.

“I think it's the small changes, the small things like this that really benefit the community,” Napurano said.

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