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Plastics and young people: What strategies can we take to reduce plastic pollution?

Blog by Artie

Sustainable Merton Young Community Champion

There are some easy things you can do to reduce the amount of plastic you, and others around you, use. I’m sure you have seen this slogan around somewhere: “Just say no”. This is something you actually can say to people selling you items or food in plastic wrapping. Of course, there are always exceptions, but plastic carrier bags at supermarkets are one of the worst things you could use to carry your shopping, or whatever you bought, home. They are not even that good anyway, always breaking. I suggest doing what I suggested to my family, using more permanent bags to carry stuff. Some places also sell strong reusable woven bags or these very small fold up bags that you can shrink into your pocket like sleeping bags.

I do try to help the world by telling my friends to stop doing something stupid like throwing their drink cans into the forest or chucking crisp packets over a bridge, but it doesn’t work most of the time. I need people to understand that single-use plastic is a bad thing. Plastic chopping boards or plastic keyboards or plastic chairs are not single-use, in fact, they can be used forever until they break. So, what is classed as single-use plastic? It is a plastic that is designed to be thrown away once you are done with it. These are used so often because they are cheap, flimsy, and low-quality items that break easily and can be mass-produced. These are the items that you have to avoid.

It’s very very hard to do I know, because we take these things for granted. What I don’t know is, do many people actually know where these things end up when they buy them? A lot of single-use plastics end up in the ocean or landfill. It is better to throw it in the recycling section of the bin but how do we know how much of it actually recycled? There are so many types of plastic and some plastics are hard to recycle, some of it is sent abroad for other countries to deal with. So, it would massively help to just not buy the stuff in the first place, then you don’t have to throw it away. Plastic water bottles that you drink once, empty, and then chuck away, AVOID.

Try educating some people a little more with the odd dramatized video on what plastic does to the environment or just saying something that may turn their opinion slightly to protecting this already damaged world we live on.


We asked Artie a few follow up questions to gain further insight into how we can encourage sustainable behaviour change in youth:

What do you think would convince youth to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics?

I think having people they look up, to such as very famous footballers or celebrities, spreading the same message. But it should be believable.

I believe celebrity influencers is 100% one of the most effective ways to turn young people's opinions. If someone they look up to does something, they will always at least consider trying it, depending on how much they look up to that person as a good role model. The series Down to Earth with Zac Efron is very good. Also Leonardo DiCaprio and his line of work as an environmental campaigner. Or songs such as "Earth" by Lil Dicky.

You mentioned dramatised videos, do you think these would work with your friends?

Sometimes they work, but they have to be used every now and then to just remind them of the consequences. Furthermore, these videos cannot come from one of their friends or me because it is not the same and will just be laughed off.

With regards to littering, do you think if there were more litter and recycling bins around your friends would use these instead of throwing their rubbish in the bushes?

Absolutely but this is very difficult, you will need a lot of bins because if a bush is closer, it will be used instead. My school is in Oxshott Surrey, the forest there is full of rubbish quite a lot, and there are little to no bins in places like forests. I struggle to see how bins would eradicate the problem. They would help but it will be very difficult to have enough of them.

Posters or somehow having images on single-use plastics like there are warnings on cigarette packets would help.

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