Week 16 was national thrift week in Finland culminating in Earth Day on Saturday, the 22nd of April. In the spirit of Earth Day, English Class sixth graders visited the Ark/Luontotalo Arkki on Thursday to learn about plastic as a pollutant on Earth. The programme was organized by Pori’s Waste Advisory Centre (Porin seudeun jäteneuvonta). The sixth graders learned that plastic will be with us pretty much forever, although plastic has only been around since the 1950’s. Through their guide, Merika, the pupils learned about dumps or landfills and how easily plastic eventually finds its way into waterways from seepage and helped by the wind.
What makes plastics so harmful to humans, animal and plant life and our environment is that they’re non-biodegradable. It only starts degrading in 700 years. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet.
Even when it degrades, it doesn’t turn into some other form that gets absorbed by nature. It photo-degrades, which means it only breaks down into smaller toxic bits of itself. It’s forever there. Pollution from plastic affects the air, land and oceans. ~Source: http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Pollution-from-Plastic
The sixth graders also learned that by washing clothes made of synthetic fibres, such as fleece and polyester, hundreds of thousands of microplastic particles are released into the environment through waste water. Although our waster water is processed at a water treatment plant, there is no existing filtration system that catches microplastic. That means that animals and humans are ingesting microplastic to some extent.
By taking proactive measures, we can lessen the harmful impact plastic has on the environment. We need to remember the 6 R’s:
- We can reduce our use of plastic.
- We can redesign products made with plastic to be made into better, new plastic products.
- We can remove plastic from products and substitute other materials.
- We can re-use products made with plastic.
- We can recycle items made of plastic.
- We can also recover objects made from plastic.
The bright green shopping bag in the photo collages above is a good example of recycling, recovering and redesigning. The shopping bag is made of plastic bottles that have been recovered and then redesigned to become a shopping carrier bag.
Before leaving to return to school, English Class sixth graders toured the natural history museum and spotted litter here and there throughout the exhibition. Our guide, Janne, pointed out that a common chocolate Easter egg is not at all environmentally friendly to Earth. The outer covering is aluminum foil which needs to be disposed of with metal waste. Chocolate, or the cocoa from which it is made, is not always ethically grown or grown in a way that sustains the environment. Furthermore, there is plastic inside the hollow egg! On their way back to school pupils were encouraged to look for examples of plastic that were harmful to the environment and aesthetically. It was an enlightening field trip!