The ongoing pandemic has undeniably brought a sharp rise in global plastic pollution. Since the start of the health crisis, an estimated 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves have been used every month – all at peril of landing on our ocean shores.
Our recent COVID-19 induced global hiatus has rendered society increasingly aware of its surroundings and notably the amount of plastic waste humans churn in a single day, in addition to the automatic disposal of plastic masks and gloves.
While the most obvious solution to plastic pollution may be to reduce our own reliance on single-use plastics, we must also urge communities and businesses to become plastic free. Schools are one notable area of focus – the UK Government has set a target for all schools to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022.
But to solve the plastic pollution crisis, you first need to understand it. Being aware of the implications of plastic waste must start at the earliest of ages. However, a lack of comprehensive understanding is to blame in tackling our planet’s plastic pollution crisis.
That is why it starts with environmental education and teaching younger generations about the impacts of plastic, recycling and above all, plastic pollution – because education emboldens.
Yet, such learnings cannot be fully acquired without standardized mechanisms. Integrating plastic waste solutions and resources into national school curriculums is a matter that has long been overlooked.
A recent study conducted in South Africa found that while plastic pollution had been integrated into school curriculums in technology, natural sciences, geography, life sciences and other subjects, there was little evidence of management practices for plastic littering being embedded in curriculums, notably once in secondary school.
This explains why much of the issue does not solely revolve around a potential lack of ambition coming from students but rather teachers not being equipped with the right tools and resources. Developing the right knowledge and understanding for both future generations and educators will help encourage a cultural shift around society’s dependence on single-use plastics – plastics that too often leak into our rivers, seas and oceans.
If recent School 4 Strike Climate action has taught us anything, it is that young people are already at the forefront of this fight. Yet, they should not have to act alone for fear previous generations have negligently stood on the sidelines for too long.
We too must be at the helm of this global war against plastic so that future generations feel empowered and provided with the right knowledge to tackle and solve our environmental crisis. Or else we stand to lose just as much as them.