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Plastic pollution is a topic that can be complicated to talk about, especially when you’re a child and your top priority is which cuddly toy from doting grandma you’re going to play with first. So when discussing facts about plastic pollution for kids it’s useful to approach it in a way that helps them understand, and feel empowered to be part of positive change. Here are a few top tips on how to get the conversation started.
Reliable sources for facts about plastic pollution for kids
When you’re looking for factual information about plastic pollution for children it pays to use sources you can trust. Reputable news sites, societies, charities and organisations that specialise in the natural world and environmental issues are a good port of call, such as National Geographic and Greenpeace. It’s also great if they have child-specific sections.
An overview of plastic pollution for kids
To introduce the topic of plastic pollution for children you might want to start with an overview. It’s important they understand that plastic is a very useful man-made material that we need for essential things like medical supplies, bike helmets, and more. But the issues with plastic are that many of us use more than we really need to. That’s particularly a problem when it’s ‘single-use plastic’, which means it’s only designed to be used once and then thrown away – which makes up a massive 50% of plastic produced. This includes:
- Shopping bags
- Some types of packaging
This plastic takes a long time to break down, and a lot of it ends up in oceans and seas.
Plastic pollution for kids: facts in numbers
Sometimes presenting information in numbers can more easily help to explain plastic pollution facts. For kids, statistics can be hard to understand when they’re too abstract, so finding real world comparisons can be a handy way to get the message home.
Around 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans each year
Children can think about weight in terms of their favourite animals – especially if they’ve got visual cues like their much-loved, slobber-covered toys to work with. As the average weight of a giraffe is one tonne, you could explain that fact as being like 8 million giraffes.
Plastic can take over 400 years to break down
Periods of time can be explained in terms of generations. That’s about 13 or 14 generations of a family, which can be imagined as your great, great, great… (and so on) grandkids.
An estimated 5 trillion plastic pieces are thought to be floating in the planet’s waters
Large numbers can be imagined as multiples of a figure they can imagine. This example can be compared to the world’s population. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet, and 5 trillion is 625 times that figure. So for each person, there’s 625 pieces of plastic in the sea.
Certain statistics don’t necessarily need to be transformed into comparisons, as they speak for themselves. This is particularly the case with percentages, such as:
- More than 50% of sea turtles have eaten plastic rubbish
- 90% of seabirds eat plastic rubbish
Matching facts about plastic for kids to their ages
The information you choose to share with children will largely depend on their ages. There are plastic pollution facts for kids that are more appropriate for older children, like the stat that 10% of dead animals that have been discovered during beach clean-ups around the world were tangled up in plastic bags. Younger children might find these kinds of facts more difficult to cope with. Trust your instinct and judgement on what you feel is suitable.
Positive facts about plastic for kids
Once you’ve shared the big picture, and explained why it’s important for us to take action, you can talk about how to reduce your plastic consumption at home. This will help them feel like they can make a positive contribution to tackle the problem.
Make a list of what changes you can all make, such as buying reusable shopping bags/water bottles, and choosing products that have recyclable plastic packaging. You could even join a beach clean-up event.
Plenty kitchen paper is designed with the planet in mind. The packaging is made with post-consumer recycled plastic, a reduced carbon footprint, and is recyclable.
There are loads of plastic pollution facts for kids to learn that can help them understand what’s happening in the world and, crucially, how they can help make sustainable choices to create a better planet. Because whilst they won’t ever part with their manky old teddy bear that’s smelled like gone-off milk and baby slobber for years now, they will want the world to be the best place it can be for those they love.