Amel Hassan is a Paterson high school student and participant in the Ramapo College Upward Bound Math-Science Program. 

We are grateful to Amel for sharing her experiences learning about the negative impact of plastic bags and participating in the Paterson Museum’s Eco-Chic 2 Program:


At the beginning of this year, I was invited by UBMS-Ramapo College Professor Dr. Sandra Suarez to take part in this independent study on civic engagement environmental practices, as part of this year’s Paterson Museum’s environmental art project, Paterson Eco-Chic2.

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As soon as I heard that it was a college class with field research, I was ecstatic and joined. I met with Professor Neriko and we studied and learned about cultures while adapting to a college setting. One of the larger focuses in the class was the environment. We reviewed topics like recycling which is something I already do. I was surprised to see there was so much plastic in the world and that there were more things I could do to lower my impact on the world, and that begins in the city of Paterson.

As you walk around the streets of Paterson, you see a lot of materials that vary from paper to bottles. I was always bothered by this and took the chance to participate in programs that worked on limiting the impact of this trash on the environment like clean ups sponsored by the NJCDC to work on my own with my Robotics team in my school.

Dr. Neriko introduced the idea of reusable bags to me, which at first was such a foreign idea. I only saw people use the typical plastic bags and those were typically the only ones offered in an area like Paterson. Reading the statistics scared me because the impact was enormous. About 5.25 trillion amounts of plastic debris are in the ocean. I realized that we need to become more aware of the effects of these bags and learn to limit our impact on the world.

After working and studying about culture, we were brought to the Paterson Museum and I met with Cristina Deutsch, Eco-Chic Project Director, who told us about her longtime dream of a “reusable bag branding initiative” for Paterson. I was happy to realize that there was someone already pushing this onto the residents but unfortunately not many residents knew of the impacts of plastic or the effects of it on the environment. The severity of this issue was not even brought to my mind until we conducted a small on field experiment and asked Paterson resident about recycling and reusable bags. They were as stunned as I was and I realized that we needed to push and educate people about this.

I am honored to be a part of a community that is spearing heading this mission in Paterson. There is such a large group of hardworking and good people in Paterson who simply just need the guidance so we can create a cleaner and healthier Paterson for all. If we continue to educate people and give out reusable bags as well as promote a simpler and healthier lifestyle change, we will see a quick change in the city and make a significant impact for the better to the world.

The trash of over 150,000 people would be significantly reduced and our impact would bea good one rather than a bad one. Using a reusable bag instead of plastic ones and putting your plastic bottle in the recycling bin rather than the trash may seem so simple, and it is.

Saving the world has never been easier.