A Seventh Grader’s Perspective on Plastic Pollution

In mid-April, I spoke with a seventh grade about her thoughts on plastic pollution (See: In Case You Missed It: Disposable Plastic Still Sucks).  Sophie, from Silicon Valley, CA, believes that “we waste way too much plastic and it is really harming our environment.”

She has researched the effects of plastic on the environment as a whole, but is most concerned with the ocean.

Photo Credit: MNN
Photo Credit: MNN

Sophie said, “The ocean is an amazing place.  It brings together all of your senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing.  You can feel the water that creeps over your toes, hear the rippling waves, taste the salt water, smell the fish, and see the beach everyone loves.  But it breaks my heart that this wonderful place might not be around for my grand kids to fully enjoy.  And we are slowly ruining our earth starting with the amount of plastic we use.”

Here are some excerpts from her school project on plastic pollution:

“The world has gotten bigger.  People are getting married, having kids, and then later, their kids are having kids.  But with each additional person, 4.6 pounds more of plastic are being wasted every day.  Plastic is an amazing material.  We use it for all aspects of life: whether it be for sandwich bags, bottled water, school supplies or even credit cards.  The problem is, it is a harmful material.  Plastic fills landfills when it isn’t recycled and emits toxic chemicals just in everyday use.  I walked into my parents’ office one day and saw plastic bottles lying everywhere.  Some of them still had water in them, but they had gone to waste because no one bothered to remember which bottle was theirs.  That’s when it hit me.  That’s when I knew plastic was a problem. Plastic can be used in moderation, but too much of it can cause serious problems.”

“Recycling Infographic says that worldwide we use one trillion plastic materials every year.  That’s almost three billion plastics every day.

Photo Credit: Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr: Steven Wilson

“Plastic exists in more ways than one.  Plastic is everywhere. Pollution started in the ocean and now it is expanding rapidly. There is plastic in the desert, every neighborhood, and every home.  A recent study claimed that 90% of the ocean floor is plastic.  At least 267 marine animals are getting caught in our garbage each year.  Landfills are made simply for waste disposal. They have liner systems (a thin layer block that keeps trash from seeping into the earth) and other blocks that try to prevent waste from polluting the water.  The amount of plastic we use has overpowered the liners, however.  An article from National Geographic claimed that in the ocean alone, plastic outweighs the amount of plankton by 6:1.  This just goes to show how much we use. It seems that the ocean has turned into our own personal plastic dumpster.  Around 30,000 gallons of waste end up in the ocean each day and don’t even go through the landfill.  Yet 25% of that number is plastic.”

What does Sophie think we can do about it?

“Each of us can do little actions everyday that make a huge impact on plastic waste.   People have gotten wasteful and taken the environment as their own personal garbage bins lately.   We don’t have to take on the plastic problem by ourselves.  I, personally, can hand out fliers making people aware of the plastic problem, or even start a pledge asking people to reduce their plastic waste. However, reducing plastic isn’t as hard as one might think.  When we go to the store we can bring canvas bags, reuse bottles and use a BRITA pitcher to reduce the use of plastic cups.  But plastic isn’t the only material that can fill your “everyday household needs”.  Aluminum can be reused and reused and reused for decades over again.  Each one of us can make an effort to use more aluminum in our households.  Not using as much plastic isn’t difficult – we just have to put in the effort to reduce our waste.”

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