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Saving The Turtles Starts in Her Hometown

ordinance proposal
Lori Pappas
Nicolina's Turtle Co
Nicolina, third from the left in the back row, with her team and the mayor.

A local 11-year-old is asking the Rock Island City Council to help reduce plastic pollution.

Nicolina Pappas from Rock Island proposed two ordinances at its study session earlier this week.
“At the council study session I covered proposing two ordinances. One to ban plastic straws, and one to put a 7 cent tax on all check out bags.” announced Pappas.
Three years ago, she started a company called Nicolina's Turtles, selling stainless steel straws and hand-sewn bags. The fifth grader sells them online and at several locations in the Quad Cities, including the Niabi Zoo.

Susanna Kemerling
Nicolina's straws for sale at Niabi Zoo

Zoo Curator of Conservation and Education, Joel Vanderbush, mentors Nicolina and went to the council meeting with her.
"The city council certainly had good questions. The questions that they asked were reasonable to consider. But she was still able to answer those quite well, and we were able to alleviate some of the concerns that the city council had." said Vanderbush.

zoo collage
Susanna Kemerling
Animals at Niabi Zoo including aldabra tortoises, horseshoe crabs, seahorses, and two longhorn cowfish. Nicolina's second favorite animal is the horseshoe crab.

Pappas and her team of classmates and neighbors demonstrated what a year of plastic bag use looks like. They rolled out 356 plastic bags, and it took a full four minutes to create a big pile in council chambers. Their aim to help end single-use waste.

Rock Island City Council
Pappas' team unravel 365 bags

Rock Island aldermen asked about cost effectiveness, accessibility, and other challenges.

If you are interested in buying straws or bags from Nicolina's Turtle, Co. go to
Follow her socials on Facebook and Instagram: @nicolinasturtleco

Susanna Kemerling is WVIK Quad Cities NPR's 2022 Fellowship Host/Reporter. She graduated from Northern Illinois University for Media Studies in Communication and spent the last year working as a Teaching Assistant through the graduate program at NIU.
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