Ocean Knoll students lead effort to reduce single-use plastic sporks

Ocean Knoll School in Encinitas recently switched from plastic sporks to silverware.

Ocean Knoll Elementary School in Encinitas has swapped out single-use sporks for silverware, making a substantial impact on reducing plastic waste at school.

Ocean Knoll fifth and sixth graders in the SWPPP internship program led the change. Using skills of observation and collaboration, they persuaded the school to change their behaviors to save 170,000 spork packets from entering the landfill each year.

The students started their work last spring as part of the BCK Program’s SWPPP internship. SWPPP, the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program, is a hands-on, STEM-based program focused on reducing pollution from school sites. Over the course of a week, the students conducted a lunchtime “spork audit,” separating out and counting all of the used and unused spork packets thrown out during lunchtime. Their research found that on average 105 packets containing a plastic spork and napkin wrapped in single-use film went straight into the trash.

Using their math skills, they calculated that the daily tally meant 170,000 single use plastic spork packets were going into the landfill each year just from Ocean Knoll.

The environmentally-conscious students presented their data to the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) board in May, along with recommendations to switch to dishwasher-safe silverware and a napkin dispenser. Last week, the young leaders saw the result of their dedication pay off as custodian Will Brown and EUSD Child Nutrition Director Lea Bonelli rolled out the new silverware and napkin dispensers.

“Starting a new program can definitely come with some logistical challenges, but it’s been incredible how quickly the students at Ocean Knoll have adopted this change,” Bonelli said. “From day one, students were excited and invested. We are very impressed by the leadership they are demonstrating in making meaningful changes to protect the environment.”

The switch to silverware is just one way that Ocean Knoll has become an environmental leader. The school has already eliminated plastic straws, reduced campus litter, improved stormwater quality and looked to increase natural lighting in all classrooms.

Encinitas students in the SWPPP internship program have made real-world impacts at their schools and in their communities. Last school year Diegueno Middle School interns presented a plan for straw waddles to the city of Encinitas to prevent runoff from the Paul Ecke Central campus and interns at San Dieguito High School Academy came up with creative solutions such as a rock burrito to help keep their campus storm drains clear.

This year, over 500 students are actively involved in SWPPP internship programs at their elementary, middle and high schools in California, Nevada and Hawaii.

“I’m proud of the SWPPP interns who have worked hard to save the environment,” said Ocean Knoll fifth grade SWPPP intern Sarah Roach.

To learn more about SWPPP programs, visit