The Plastic Problem

The Planet Protectors - (Rai's Wolf Pack)

Westerman Elementary
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
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The following essay was collaboratively written by two grade 7 students from our team. Khadija and Zoha describe the problem at hand, the research and learning, and our journey to work together and make change.


The Plastic Problem - By Khadija Nadeem and Zoha Faisal

            Plastic is everywhere. Humans have produced over 8 billion tonnes of it and more than half of this plastic is thrown away to be left in garbage dumps while only less than 10% is recycled. Scientists and environmentalists say that by 2050 there will be more plastic on Earth than fish in the sea. Our class of Division 2 from Westerman Elementary decided that we did not want to ignore and leave this plastic-waste burden for our future generations. Instead we decided to do something about it and take action.

            Our mission to make our school and community a more eco-friendly place began in October of 2018 when our teacher, Ms. Rai, had us read an article titled “The Plastic Problem”. It was just supposed to be another piece of reading assignment. But it quickly became something more to all of us. Students asked questions as to why straws weren’t banned everywhere and why they were still being made by companies if everyone knows how harmful they are to the environment. We then started making connections to our own community and our own families. We realized we can reduce our own single-use plastic waste. We took the initiative to survey the problem at our own school. Cautious but optimistic, we took a walk around Westerman Elementary. We were very unsettled to see how much waste our school alone produced and how careless we had become of disposing it properly. After this alarming revelation, what we had to do was undeniable to everyone.

            We researched the dangers of plastic and we discovered that plastic is being mass-produced by companies who are not thinking of the environmental consequences of this act. This plastic that we so commonly use is non-biodegradable meaning that if it was to find its way into the ocean it would be harmful to all aspects of our environment. In the ocean it could be consumed by fish and other marine-life causing disruptions in populations of many kinds of sea animals. If the fish are lucky to survive, they are most likely being caught by fishers and then they soon end up on our plate. This means that we would indirectly be eating plastic. It would be no better however, if the plastic ended up in a garbage dump because plastic would release toxins into the atmosphere causing air pollution. Most garbage though, finds its way into an island-like piece of land made of waste. There are 5 of these massive garbage patches, the biggest being The Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in Pacific Ocean.

            So first, we wanted everyone to know about this disaster and how we as students are contributing to it. There was a very large wall outside our class which we were previously going to use to display art. Instead we filled it with information about the problem, who it was harming, what kinds of solutions are out there and what we could do to help. Another impactful thing we did was prominently display real garbage that we picked up from our own school grounds. There was so much trash that we created a full border and used the remaining garbage to fill up 5 whole garbage bags which we also stapled onto our wall.

            We invited classes to come look at our wall and we found that even the primary students understood the matter at hand, and many classes came multiple times to come see the work that we did and the research that we put up. Of course, we understood that some classes couldn’t find the time to come look at our wall. So our class split into pairs and prepared oral or visual presentations. During the presentations we explained the difference between the organics, refundables, recycling and garbage bins. We were assigned a division and we went into the classes to summarize what we displayed on our wall and how this problem requires us to work together to solve it. The whole school was soon aware of our project. We also set up a meeting with the principal, Mr. McQuarrie, to discuss other ways to help. A group of students who had prepared class notes went to the meeting and suggested things that we thought could help our school’s plastic problem. We suggested more trash cans outside and for teachers to give time before recess for children to eat their snacks so there would be less wrappers outside. The last thing we did was set up a Morning Garbage Pick-up Crew in which students would voluntarily come earlier in the morning to help pick up garbage found on school grounds.

            Yes, this problem is big but we had to realize that not only are large corporations responsible, but so are schools and seemingly innocent households. Many believe that they are not at fault for this but we are all unknowingly partially responsible as we unrestrictedly use and throw away plastic. animals continue to be caught in plastic wrappings, swallow miniscule pieces or are involved in other problems concerning plastic and there is no one to blame for this but humans.

            No matter the size, plastic is harmful. For example, a straw is the tiniest, lightest and the most delicate piece of plastic out there, but it still plays a huge role in our environmental stability. We’re currently tipping the scales towards the wrong side. We need to even things out and if anyone thinks that they shouldn’t be making efforts because they play no role in this problem, they need to revisit the thought. Some simple things that you can do are use reusable bags for grocery shopping, not buy snacks with excessive wrapping, and pack lunches in glass containers rather than disposable materials such as saran wrap or Ziploc bags. We should also stop the use of plastic cutlery, beverage containers and other plastic packaging which are also known as single-use plastics.

            We are happy to report that plastic waste is being observed and reduced at our school and we recognize that there are efforts being made not just in Canada but all around the world. The Canadian government along with other countries are making new laws to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Already, restaurants and resorts have stopped offering plastic straws. Street vendors and food trucks are only offering straws only if they are asked for rather than a required service. We’ve already taken a step towards the right direction but in order for us to come back from all the damage we’ve caused we are going to have to take much fiercer precautions.

            In order for us to make changes we are going to have to take risks as we grow. Learning the consequences of plastic waste at a young age helps us better understand our role for the future. In a few years we are going to commandeer this world we are taking care of and it is crucial for us to be an active part of our community today so that we can lead it tomorrow.