PLASTIC is used almost every day — at home, work and public places, schools and business outlets, among others.
Many are aware that if not removed properly, plastic materials will pollute the environment.
Due to such concern,
various campaigns have been organised to create better public awareness of plastic pollution, pivoted on minimising reliance on the semi-synthetic materials that use polymers as a main ingredient.
These continuing campaigns either in schools and the community have shown some success.
While cutting back on plastic usage in daily life, people have started to go for alternatives such as using their own shopping bags and other biodegradable materials.
Seven members of SMK Luak Miri’s Girl Guides Club are presently taking part in the Plastic Tide Turner Challenge Badge (PTTCB) programme aimed at phasing out plastic usage, especially single-use plastic materials.
The Forms Two and Four students involved are Nicole Poh Jia Yen, Doris Ting Xin Yii, Pamela Boon Tze Yun, Joyce Lee Kai Xin, Nur Hafyna Bahali, Marjorie Diane Urai Moni and Jocelyn Lee Kai Qi.
The programme, organised by Malaysia Girl Guides Association, is one of the main initiatives of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), urging members to support the global push to eradicate plastic usage.
The programme is divided into three levels – young leaders, leaders and champion.
Girl guides at any level are required to carry out various activities to foster good public practice in reducing especially one-off-use plastic materials.
This involves a self-audit on the habit of using plastic materials, finding out the problems caused by plastic pollution, practising recycling at home, as well as educating the public and getting schools and the community to support the say-no- to-plastic campaign.
Starting at home
For Jocelyn Lee, the programme serves as a good platform to educate people from a young age on handling environmental pollution, caused by single-use plastic materials.
From her activity dubbed “Audit Your Plastic Usage Habit,” she realised the use of such non-biodegradable materials could pollute the environment and should be avoided.
“As we know, plastic materials are the second-highest disposable solid waste after food waste. It’s very sad to see plastic waste being dumped into the river, polluting the water and affecting the aquatic life,” she said.
She agreed with on-going campaigns to reduce plastic usage for packaging, saying such a practice should start at home.
Lee and her family have decided to make some changes to their daily lives by using eco-bags, steel spoons and eco-friendly food containers.
“My mother will bring her own eco-bags when grocery shopping. We will also bring our own food containers for takeaways.”
Pamela Boon concurred with Lee that saying no to plastic should start at home.
“We can play our part by avoiding single-use plastic materials such as plastic shopping bags, plastic drinking straws and polystyrene food packagings.”
For Lee, watching films on plastic pollution screened by PTTCB has been educational and beneficial.
Moreover, two videos — ‘Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World’ and ‘Is This The Ocean of The Future’ — she watched on YouTube has given her an insight into the dangers posed by plastic pollution to the environment.
“Nowadays, almost everything around us contains plastic materials such as cars, furniture, computers and plenty more,” she said.
Lee felt strongly that people could stop plastic pollution by minimising the use of plastic spoons and food containers.
“Plastic pollution is a very serious problem that can do untold harm to the environment. The problem will not be solved as long as we still use plastic.
“So we need to take this issue seriously to protect the environment and our health. We must support global efforts to get rid of unrecyclable plastic waste.”
Nicole Poh said people chose to use plastic materials because of the cheaper cost. Regardless, she noted some irresponsible people were dumping plastic waste wantonly and subjecting the environment to grave danger.
Poh opined that the single-use plastic problem could be solved with some innovation.
“Setting up a recycling corner at home is one of the easiest ways to respond to the global call for environmental protection. At this corner, we can put all the non-plastic items such as thermo rice containers, recycling bags, paper or steel straws, water tumblers and steel utensils and cutlery.
“It’s a good reminder to the family to bring non-plastic items for shopping and even eating at food outlets,” she suggested.
Poh said participating in the PTTCB programme made her realise the need to love and protect the environment. She also agreed that a green campaign on reducing plastic waste should start at home.
“Hopefully, people can stop using single-use plastic materials by practising recycling.”
Through the PTTCB programme, Nur Hafyna Bahali has learnt to get the people in her village to respond positively to the say-no-to-plastic campaign.
She especially enjoys creating the programme’s poster campaign. Besides improving her artistic skills, she has from her drawings delivered the message of love for the environment via the campaign.
“I challenged myself to display the poster I sketched at Tamu Tukau in my neighbourhood. I picked this place as my subject because cleanliness there is very poor.
“Waste such as plastic cups, plastic containers and plastic food wrappers left at this market have become an eyesore,” she said.
Nur Hafyna hoped displaying her poster would help raise awareness among the traders and customers of the dire need to take the cleanliness problem seriously and try to solve it.
Picking up litter
Doris Ting felt discarding the bad habit of wanton littering would help keep a place clean and tidy. To her, throwing rubbish away in a responsible manner or helping to clean up a littered area is a “noble culture” that should be encouraged.
“We shouldn’t be ashamed of such a community-minded practice, particularly in public areas. It’s good to show our concern, care and love for the environment,” she said.
Ting admires the waste management practice in countries like Japan.
“The Japanese are very disciplined in managing household waste. They also subscribe to the good practice of rubbish segregation to support recycling programmes.”
The community plays an important role in addressing the issue of reduced plastic usage.
Marjorie Diane agreed that schools, in particular, must continue to emphasise the importance of environmental preservation.
Under the PTTCB programme, she and her team members have worked closely with their Nature Club on a plastic waste segregation project at the school to raise environmental awareness among the students and encourage them to apply what they have practised in school to their homes.
For starters, they will collect and sort out plastic bottles and aluminium cans for recycling.
“Plastic bottles collected can be sent to Taiwan for recycling and turned into blankets which can be used by the hospital patients and victims of earthquakes, tsunami, floods and hurricanes at natural disaster relief centres around the world,” Marjorie said.
The team members will also work closely with the school canteen operator on the No Plastic Day Campaign every Friday. They already got the green light from the school’s acting principal to proceed.
Marjorie said the canteen operator would only use paper wrappers for packaging food on Fridays to support the campaign.
The Nature Club hopes this will become a common practice in the school.