Student Solutions for Plastic Pollution

congrats to 2018’s talented young eco-journalists!
Student Solutions for Plastic Pollution: teen girl wearing a cloak of plastic
Image courtesy of Environmental Defence

Less than 11 percent of Canada’s plastics get recycled. The rest end up in our landfills, lakes, parks, and oceans, destroying ecosystems and leaching toxic chemicals. Plastic pollution is a big problem and adults are not the only ones taking notice.

The good news is that Canadian students want to be a part of solving this problem. So when we asked, “What can be done at your school, home, or in your community to help reduce plastic waste?” we received hundreds of articles, videos and photos sharing solutions from a uniquely youthful perspective.

The YRE Canada National Competition

Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE Canada) is a national environmental education program which culminates with an annual national, followed by an international, eco-journalism competition. Students from across the country conducted surveys, interviewed local businesses, took photos, and created videos to share their solution to plastic pollution. In 2018, twenty-eight Canadian students won national prizes, and two of them also won international awards!

Image of fake fast food meal made of plastic waste
Image courtesy of Environmental Defense

Ivy Wang, from Seaquam Secondary School in Delta, BC, won first place in the age 15-18 category both in Canada and internationally for her animated video, Plastic Pollution. In her video, Ivy said, “We live in a society where people’s actions are greatly impacted by each other.” She explains that “even doing small things like using reusable water bottles, avoiding plastic bags and packing a lunch ... you can be an influence for a greater society.”

Mississauga student Gabrielle Michael, from Holy Name of Mary College School, won first place in the age 15-18 category nationally and third place internationally for her article, Reduce, Reuse, Refill. Gabrielle investigated customer behaviour and corporate use at her local Loblaws and Starbucks and said, “When it all boils down, both consumers and producers are to blame for the startling amount of plastic pollution in the environment, yet we can easily become the solution.” She suggests phasing out disposable plastics, installing water bottle refill stations, and urging companies to use sustainable products as attainable ways to make a meaningful difference.

An environmental activist group for youth

From reading the submissions, it’s clear that Canada’s youth care deeply about the issue of plastic pollution and are looking for ways to get involved. This summer, as you’re passing a park littered with disposable bottles, take a moment and ask your child how they would solve the problem of plastic pollution. And then, suggest that they share it with YRE Canada in the fall. We’ll all be better for it.

YRE Canada is part of Young Reporters for the Environment – an international program of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). Take your budding eco-journalist to Young Reporters Canada to see more 2018 entries, share stories, and be a voice that inspires action.

To learn more about plastic's effects, check out our article Three Plastic Problems.