The impact of plastic on the environment is a serious issue, and one is never too young to understand or begin to understand why plastic pollution is an issue.
You can begin to talk to your children about plastic pollution at any stage of their childhood by meeting them at their maturity level. You can show them pictures of the impacts of plastic on the environment or simply explain that plastic can poison the environment when not disposed of correctly. You can even start composting with them or upcycling plastics.
Where To Get Factual Information To Explain Plastic Pollution To Your Children?
When it comes to teaching your kids about plastic pollution, there are some great websites and resources out there on the internet. The top things you should consider when choosing the right resources are:
- Child’s age, maturity level and education level
- How best your child learns i.e. visually, verbally or through reading or activities
- What options the resource offers such as video, puzzles or other activities
- How accurate the resource is – who uploads the information, is it backed by science or a reputable organization?
- Do their resources grow with your child, i.e. do they start simple and get more complex as your child learns and grows.
Some great resources currently available are:
- Kids against plastic UK: https://www.kidsagainstplastic.co.uk/ – offers information and activities focused on environmental issues such as plastic pollution and the climate crisis. They offer free information, resources and a special club kids can become part of.
- Science over everything: http://scienceovereverything.com/2019/09/09/plastic-intervention/ – they offer information, resources, videos, complex topics, interviews with scientists and classroom resources across many areas of science.
- Plastic Pollution Coalition: https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/ – provides simple and in depth information across webinars, blogs and other free resources specifically about the impacts of plastic.
How To Keep Your Children Up To Date On Current Events Including Plastic Pollution
There are many ways to keep your children up to date on current issues in the world such as plastic pollution, again, depending on their age but also their access to computers and the internet.
Here are some top ways to keep your children updated and informed:
- Watch videos with them explaining the plastic crisis and the impact
- Point them toward blogs they can read (if of solid reading age)
- Sign them up to an informative e-newsletter or magazine focused on the environment
- Purchase books or magazines they can learn from
- Join a kid’s club that focuses on the environment
- Download free resources such as puzzles, quizzes, coloring in sheets and the like to get them thinking about plastic pollution.
What Is Plastic Pollution And Why Is It Harmful?
Plastic pollution is essentially when plastic is disposed of – either incorrectly in the environment or waterways (pollution/littering). It also occurs when thrown into the bin as it ends up in landfill where it could take decades to centuries to break down completely.
Even then, it can break down into microplastics to be ingested by wildlife or leave behind toxic residue. There are large amounts of plastic in the world’s oceans – from large waste to micro plastics. Our planet is really getting overtaken by plastic and this has devastating impacts across all levels of life and environment.
Plastics – particularly single-use plastics and non-recyclables are bad for the environment in the following ways:
- The manufacturing process of plastic uses high amounts of electricity and water, while releasing large amounts of greenhouse gasses.
- Plastic can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose or break down in any environment, including landfill.
- When plastic decomposes, it breaks down into small pieces that may not be visible to the naked eye, however, these small pieces of plastic will never fully decompose and will potentially contaminate water, soil and air.
- Plastic can harm wildlife as they can get caught up in plastic – on land and in the ocean – or they can consume small pieces of plastic which will kill them either via choking or other health consequences or injury.
- Plastic products have been found to be toxic to humans. This is due to the chemicals added to plastics and then absorbed by humans, such as from water or other bottles. Microplastics entering the human body through ingestion or inhalation can also be toxic.
- There have also been studies shown that certain chemicals found in plastic can leach out of the plastic and into food and beverages. This has been linked to health problems such as reduced fertility, cancers or metabolic disorders.
How Can Your Children Help the Global Plastic Pollution Problem?
There are several ways your children can start to make an impact including:
- Encourage them to collect plastic and throw it in the bin
- Show them how to recycle
- Get them involved in plastic bottle collection and allow them to collect the refund available
- Do craft activities that upcycle plastic
- Encourage them to use plastic alternatives where possible such as metal drink bottles, reusable cutlery, compostable plastics, biodegradable trash bags and fabric bags
- Start a worm farm or compost with them to show them the benefits of composting
No age is too early to start considering the impact of plastic on the environment or start to make small steps for change. It starts with the next generation and can involve keeping them informed and up to date on the impacts of plastic, as well as being involved in activities that minimize their environmental footprint.