The announcement that the government will be banning single-use plastic bags came as fantastic news to many. A product of an ever-growing campaign that had already seen supermarket giants Countdown and New World remove single-use plastic bags, the ban looks likely to be implemented sometime next year. But while it’s a huge step forward, environmental activists are warning that we’re not there yet.
To this end, there are still plenty of people fighting the good fight for the environment. One of these people is Burnside High School student E Wen Wong, founder of PS Our Beaches. Despite being only 15 years old she’s been at the front of the environmental scene for the past two years.
E Wen was only 10 when she entered the National Future Problem Solving Finals. Engaging with the theme “Ocean Soup”, E Wen was quickly shocked by the extent of the plastic problem in our ocean. “The prospect of our oceans housing more plastic than fish by 2050 was no one to be overlooked, even by a ten-year-old” she recalls.
She first entered the fight against pollution through poetry and in 2015 she won a $1000 prize for a poem she had written about the issue. Ready to step up another level, E Wen took the money and used it to kick-start PS Our Beaches, an organization dedicated to combating the growing issue of plastic pollution in NZ.
Since then PS Our Beaches has aimed to “advance the education and understanding, particularly amongst young people, of the effects of and solutions to the single-use plastic problem.” Working towards this goal, PS Our Beaches has facilitated litter audits, informing others about sustainable initiatives and conducting interviews with DoC, UNESCO and other organisations.
Youth are the future of our world and as such, PS Our Beaches has particularly targeted youth involvement. E Wen has worked to “develop a network for youth to connect with those similarly passionate”.
Now that the “bag-ban” is in place, E Wen believes the next step is a push for producers to cut down on the amount of plastic they use. Currently, plastic packaging is used for everything but there are plenty of non-polluting alternatives that could be used just as easily. E Wen also has a particular “bug-bear”: Single-use plastic bottles. With a ton of recyclable or reusable options, there’s no reason for these bottles to stay so popular.
Most importantly though, E Wen notes that “It is up to us to drive this change”. PS Our Beaches is always looking for new volunteers to help fight the good fight (link below) but there are plenty of simpler things you can do. You can make direct change by participating in (or organizing) local beach cleanups, support local organisations such as Sustainable Coastlines, or simply change your lifestyle to reduce the amount of single-use plastic you consume.
As we all work towards a “future to be proud of”, you can be sure to stay up to date right here on the Daily Dove.