By Mark Friedman,  Los Angeles Maritime Institute Marine Science Educator

More than 50 youth from the South Bay attended the Algalita Innovation Forum on the weekend of Aug. 3 featuring youth-developed innovations to reduce ocean plastic pollution.

The three-day conference featured panel discussions and presentations about the latest commercial innovations as substitutes for plastic bottles, straws, bags and fishing nets (into skateboards). The teenage participants worked on innovations of their own and short video presentations.

Algalita bridges real-world science with real-time solutions to inspire teachers and students to find their place within the movement to combat plastic pollution, primarily through educating, and equipping local and global influencers to prevent plastic pollution.

Students like Los Angeles Maritime Institute Marine youth crew member Marlen Bautista, of the bilingual the Explora la Costa program exuded excitement about the future in combating plastic pollution.

“I really felt inspired that young people care about plastic in the ocean,” said the student, who serves an interpreter for LAMI. “I felt a sense of solidarity and community. What mostly impacted me was that I realized that everything I use has plastic. I feel guilty yet inspired to make a difference.”

“The reason why I take time out of my life to help other people’s problems is because I want to be the change,” added Jose Velasquez, an Animo High School student. “I want to see in the world.”

Algalita’s chief youth officer, Anushka Bhaskar, said she came away from the forum feeling renewed and inspired.

“Serving on a panel at the forum and leading a design workshop filled with participatory and engaged and passionate youth thinkers allowed me to share and learn from all parties in attendance,” Bhaskar said. “I plan to take my heightened understanding of the problem and possible solutions to Harvard in the fall.”

Over three days, youth heard presentations about the latest cutting-edge commercial innovations as substitutes for plastic bottles, straws, bags, fishing nets (into skateboards), etc.

Algalita Education Director Anika Ballent was pleased with the outcome of the forum.

“It was incredible to see the event come together and to share the depth of knowledge on the complexities of plastic pollution with these driven and passionate youth leaders,” Ballent said. “We hope we’ve prepared them and inspired them to find their unique place in making our world plastic-smart.”

They left the conference inspired to go back to their organizations and schools to educate their peers and advance conservation measures to reduce ocean plastic pollution.

Some of these youth will be participating in next year’s Algalita POPS Forum and helping to lead and organize the international youth conference on marine science and ocean plastic and microplastic pollution in China, August 2019.  Visit for teacher and youth resources.