5 Facts to Explain Plastic Pollution to Kids

As adults, we’re all aware of how much a problem plastic pollution is. We know that it's vital to continue being vocal about it and making small, everyday lifestyle changes to help improve the situation, and that includes giving our kids all the facts.

The current generation of children are the ones most likely to come up with a viable solution to plastic pollution and global warming. So, it’s in their best interest to learn everything they can about it from a young age. But how do you begin opening up that discussion? Whether you’re a concerned parent, an educator or community leader, we’ve gathered the 5 most important facts to teach kids and help them understand the severity of plastic pollution in the hopes that one day they can create a better future.

How to talk to your children about plastic pollution?

Plastic pollution is a very serious topic, but the last thing you want to do is overwhelm your kids. Rather than bombarding them with all the doom and gloom, open up the conversation in a calm way and ask them what questions they have about the environment. Having an open and honest discussion is the best way forward to ensure they get all the information they need without feeling lost or scared for their future.

The facts to answer the crucial questions:

1. Where does plastic pollution come from?

The plastic in our oceans primarily comes from both land-based and marine sources. In fact, one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution is actually discarded fishing gear like traps and nets that get left behind or accidentally washed away.

According to the WWF the 3 main ways that the plastic we use in our everyday lives can end up in the ocean are:

- Throwing it away rather than recycling it.

- Littering.

- Flushing products like wet wipes and cotton buds down the toilet.

By making small lifestyle changes and becoming more aware and conscious of recycling, littering and swapping out plastic products wherever possible, we’ll all be doing our part to tackle the problem.

2. When did plastic pollution become a problem?

Plastic in the oceans was first recorded by scientists in the 1960s while they were fishing for plankton. The discovery led to people in this decade becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues and the movement against plastic began. As the problem continued to rise in the ‘70s and ‘80s, people grew more and more anxious about it. So, the plastic industry themselves came with the solution to recycle, which was a huge step in the right direction but it wasn’t perfect as not all types of plastic can be recycled, so many of it still ended up in the oceans.

3. Is plastic pollution getting worse?

Unfortunately, plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues right now. With 8 million tonnes of plastic being dumped in the ocean every year, environmentalists estimate that the problem will increase by more than 40% by 2030. But, there is still hope that we and future generations can make a huge, positive impact.

By swapping out plastic straws to stainless steel straws, using reusable stainless steel tumblers, reducing the use of single-use plastic and even adopting a plant-based diet are all things we can do now to make a change. Check out the eco-friendly section of our blog for more tips and advice on things you can start doing right now to help the planet.

4. How will plastic pollution affect the future?

As plastic still continues to be manufactured in the masses and consequently polluting our oceans, it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish, which is a scary thought!

It’s safe to say that we can expect to see some long-term effects of plastic pollution in the future if we don’t seriously act now. For starters, we will most likely see some physical effects as plastic will be ingested by us as we eat seafood, damaging our health. As the pollution builds we will no doubt see the chemical effects of this on the air quality. And, tourism, fishing and shipping will all be impacted, meaning the economy will struggle.

5. How plastic pollution affects marine life?

The biggest dangers of plastic pollution on marine life are ingestion, suffocation and entanglement. As sad as it is to hear, hundreds of marine animals such as seabirds, sea turtles, fish, whales, dolphins, sharks and more are suffering from getting caught in plastic debris and seriously harmed from it. This can affect not only their ability to swim but their overall quality of life.

These animals also often mistake plastic as prey, meaning they are ingesting far too much. And, because their stomachs are full of plastic, this can lead to them starving. As extremely important members of our ecosystem, it’s crucial that we do everything we can to save them.

The best activities to get kids involved in to reduce plastic pollution

There are hundreds of fun and educational activities you can get kids involved with to help reduce plastic pollution, make them aware of the dangers and instil new habits that they can carry with them into adulthood that will, hopefully, create a better future.

- Have a plastic-free day once a week.

- Get them to help upcycle furniture and other household objects.

- Put on a sustainable fashion show.

- Create musical instruments or artwork out of used (clean) plastic.

- Volunteer at a beach cleanup.

- Cook plant-based meals together.

- Educate yourself and your children by watching insightful documentaries (we recommend anything by David Attenborough) and Youtube videos.

These are just some fun activities you can do with your child to help them understand plastic pollution.

Find out how else you can help the planet by reducing your carbon footprint.

Want to learn more? Here are 5 things you didn’t know about plastic pollution.