Open your eyes! To say that there is no problem with plastic waste or that it is isn’t your problem confirms a head-in-the-sand attitude that shouldn’t be tolerated at all. The clogged sewer canals, for instance in Bekasi, Kalimalang, is a stark reminder of the plastic waste and people’s obstinacy in treating their surroundings as a huge rubbish bin. It is simple logic, really. Clogged drains mean roads flooded with canal water that is teeming with bacteria in which people, who need to get from point A to point B, will need to cross thus increasing the chances of them taking ill by succumbing to leptospirosis (rats are the popular residents of canals) as they wade through the dirty water. And, to make matters worse, given the preponderance of people to eschew health concerns as something trivial or to self-diagnose, untreated leptospirosis can lead to something more life-debilitating or, worse, death. Going outside of Bekasi, discarded plastic waste is deleterious to animals. Sea creatures are dying because they mistake the plastic bags for food and eat them. Others get caught in the plastic trash maiming themselves such as that turtle, in a video that went viral, that had a straw stuck up his nostril which was painfully pulled out.
Students at Global Prestasi School (GPS), particularly the students of the Cambridge Preparatory Class, have decided to address this urgent problem. Following their gold medal win at the recently concluded Youth Environmental Summit (YES) 2019 in Singapore, the grade 8A students are making good on their gold medal-winning project of reducing and ultimately eliminating single-use plastic by, first, practicing what they’re preaching. Now, they are bringing their own lunch boxes and tumblers, and ditching the use of plastic straws. Some have taken to using metal straws to sip their drinks with. The habit of bringing their own lunch boxes and tumblers was instilled during YES when every participant was told to bring his or her own lunch box and tumbler for lunch and dinner. The YES organizers provided the sponge and dish detergent for the participants, so the students were also taught how to be responsible especially cleaning up after themselves.
Their English teacher has also joined in by bringing her own lunch box to pack lunch from the canteen which she places in a cloth bag. Her cloth bag totally eliminates having to ask for a new plastic bag in which to carry her packed lunch back to her office. She has taken it further by having her drink poured in a mug or a glass instead of the usual plastic cup when she has a drink at Starbucks or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Likewise, she has made it a point to bring her own shopping bags at the supermarket to put her groceries in.
The goal of grade 8A is for GPS to go plastic free. They will start with their class then slowly convince the entire grade 8 students then the teachers, and eventually the entire unit. The project is simple, but it is easier said than done. They are aware of the great challenge before them which is altering the school’s population mind-set of convenience over sustainability to vice versa. It is going to be a struggle fraught with indifference, scepticism, and downright apathy, but they’ve immense resolve to make everyone ditch single-use plastic because it is the right thing to do.