Amy, co-founder of Kids Against Plastic, speaking at our Earth Day Night event 2021
Amy starts us off, almost ironically, with words about “just starting”. It’s important to just start. Small actions are often disregarded like little fish in a big, mixed up and complicated pond but they are one of the most important parts of environmentalism. They are important steps in the right direction.
“My journey into environmental activism started with dog poo.”
When Amy and her sister were young, they spotted too much dog muck when they went on walks. At ages 8 and 6 at the time they decided to do something about it. They sprayed the dog muck in bright orange paint, put up educational posters and gave out free dog poo bags.
This small project was like a light switch for her into the world of activism. It was then she realised that no matter how small you are, your voice matters. You can make a real difference in the world.
It was about five years later that her “real” activism began. She and her sister were homeschooled as they were traveling around Europe and it was then that they learned about the UNs Sustainable Development Goals. They also learned about single use plastics and saw horrific images of seabirds and marine life being affected by them. This wonder material, she said, isn’t so wonderful, afterall. Especially when its properties don’t match its function.
It dawned on her and her sister that most ordinary people were simply unaware of the consequences of our plastic habits and also that because environmental challenges are massive, people often believe their actions must be too small to make any difference.
Nevertheless, she saw the importance of doing something NOW, no matter how small that may be. That is when Amy and Ella founded their campaign and now their charity: Kids Against Plastic.
They started with litter picking with a goal of 100k pieces of plastic, one for every sea animal killed by plastic each year. Currently they have picked over 90k pieces. Almost there!
Amy tells of an experience spending hours in a day separating around 1000 pieces of plastic from nature only to return a few days later to find the area completely covered in litter again. They realised the solution was to turn off the “plastic tap” (i.e. at source). That was when they decided to take on supermarket plastic usage, in particular plastic bottles. They were trying to get plastic bottle water off supermarket shelves because, she said, it’s completely unnecessary! Tap water is safe to drink in the UK!
Amy then spoke about being shocked about how misleading branding can be around recycling. We have such an ineffective recycling system, she said, and the plastic that does get recycled most often gets downcycled rather than being made into new plastic bottles. And even when bottles can be made into things like carpets or fleeces, these secondary products can be sources of microplastics, which we are only now becoming aware of how dangerous they are.
We need closed loop plastics but this is not currently the case. We might think that with this labelling we see on the bottles on supermarket shelves that our recycled bottles become new bottles. Not the case therefore MISLEADING.
Amy admits that the campaign didn’t go well. This led to a new realisation that they needed to affect consumer demand since that is what drives supermarket trends (for the most part). That is where the Plastic Clever initiative was born. The idea here was to make people into more discerning users of plastic. Some of the main single use plastic items are actually extremely easy to avoid: bags, bottles, straws, takeaway cups.
Amy and Ella went to cafes in their local area, one by one. They onboarded many Plastic Clever Businesses that pledged to do things like stop offering plastic straws and cutlery, encourage their employees to switch to reusable mugs and offer free water refills to their customers. They received feedback from some businesses that they had actually saved money!
The young activists’ latest initiative is with schools, Plastic Clever Schools, and so far over 1000 schools in the UK have signed up!! These ladies are unstoppable!
Final words of wisdom
Don’t try to be COMPLETELY plastic free. It’s impossible and therefore demotivating. Just start to make a difference; make small changes. Plastic pollution is a collective problem. One count found that in the UK 117 plastic bottles are thrown away per person per year and so the impact of everyone on even just this call today would be HUGE.
Big impacts by simple changes.
Amy left us with a very relevant announcement: Kids Against Plastic is now working with Green Salon Collective to promote Plastic Clever Salons. This is a tailored version specifically for hair salons to achieve their own plastic clever status.
- - -
Find Amy via her social media handle: @kidsagainstplastic