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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Cong Yuan Tao Ren Country School, Jang Xi, Jiang Xi Province, China

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Cong Yuan Tao Ren Country School, Jang Xi, Jiang Xi Province, China
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JEFFLI2022



Registered: December 2021
City/Town/Province: Newyork
Posts: 1
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Refuse Single-Use Plastics
My passion for single-use plastic started on a trip I took to Qing Hai Lake over the summer. I was walking around, and I saw many plastic bottles scattered on the ground and floating in the lake. Qing Hai is the largest lake in China, located in a hollow of the Tibetan Plateau at 3,205 meters above sea level. The lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia, with many species using Qing Hai as an intermediate stop during migration. Seeing the plastic, knowing that over time, heat and light from the sun will break it down into tiny bits of microplastics that will end up in the stomachs of all the migrating birds, made me stop and ask myself if I had a role to play.
That's why I started "Choose to Reuse" a small effort that introduces students from rural areas in China to the harmful effects of single-use plastics and how to avoid them. I focused on single-use plastic water bottles because I thought that is one habit that we can all avoid. Single-use plastics are made from plastics and are meant to be used only once and then thrown away. They include disposable items like plastic cutlery, plastic straws, water bottles, and most food packaging. Unfortunately, many single-use plastics don't have a polymer identification code, meaning if the item gets to a recycling plant, there is no way to identify the plastic-type. That's why many of these items aren't accepted in your curbside recycling. If an incompatible plastic gets into a particular recycling machine, it can clog it up.
I chose a school in Jiang Xi, as a platform to spread my idea is because I feel that young people have an open mindset, which can accept new information and slowly make a difference in their community. I believe that spreading awareness will help them to make choices to avoid single-use plastics. I gave each student the challenge to record their actions and share them with the outside community via WeChat. I also started a WeChat group where I share articles about the effects of plastic on our environment to encourage people to avoid plastics, especially single-use plastics when they can. (WeChat is a social media and communication app that is very popular in China.) My success is measured by how many students and how many actions they record.
I donated a reusable water bottle to every student and faculty member to the Cong Yuan Tao country school. In addition, I created notebooks for the students that have statistics on the harm caused by single-use plastics and steps they can take to avoid using them. I was hoping to be there in person to distribute the notebooks and bottles, but COVID prevented my travel. Instead, I recorded a presentation and asked a family friend in the area to deliver them. As of this writing, 200 students have viewed the presentation and posted, saying that they have shared what they learned with another family member or friend.
Single-use plastic bottles are bad because they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, while in that process, they leak harmful chemicals into the environment. Manufacturing a single-use plastic bottle can take three times the amount of water to make it than to fill it. Eighty percent of the single-use plastic bottles we dispose of end up in landfills. Fifty percent of single-use plastic bottles we put in the recycling bin was never recycled.
The top ten most common waste items found in worldwide coastal cleanups are single-use plastic products, including food wrappers, beverage bottles, straws, stirrers, grocery bags, and takeout containers. Thirty-three billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year &#65533;" that's like dumping two garbage trucks full of plastic into the oceans every minute. Plastic is a huge problem, and I believe my project will help alleviate this massive plastic crisis. For example, if every person from Shanghai picked up a piece of plastic, at least 26 million pieces would be removed from the environment.
Working on the project has changed how I view my place in the world. Before I thought that what one person doesn't really matter, I have come to see that one person's actions can have an impact.
The response from the students at the school was really positive. The school is no longer allowing single-use plastics on campus. They have also installed more recycling bins for paper, glass, and other plastics. I've heard from several students that they have talked to the families about the environmental harm caused by plastics and have agreed to no longer purchase single-use plastics and always bring their own shopping bags to the market.
I plan to keep the conversation I've started by interviewing marine biologists studying the impact of microplastics in our oceans and posting to my WeChat account. Next year, I plan to make a similar presentation and donation to another school.
The more I read and researched the effects of plastic on our environment, the more I came to realize that perhaps biodegradable plastic might be a good alternative. I've spoken with my science teacher and a grad student at my local university and will be investigating biodegradable plastics for my science project this year.
Date: December 30, 2021 Views: 973 File size: 14.9kb, 1726.4kb : 2400 x 1380
Hours Volunteered: 30
Volunteers: 5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 13&30-50
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