The ubiquity of plastic cannot be questioned, and plastic products may be found virtually everywhere. As more people use plastic in their everyday needs, the amount of waste disposed of by them is growing in alarming proportions. When developing an intervention for curbing plastic waste, it is important to realize that recycling alone will not solve the problem. The proposed intervention does not deal with recycling per se, and its effects on reducing plastic waste. Instead, the intervention focuses on behavioral changes which will eventually lead to the reduction of plastic litter left by the people near the water sources.
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Most householders are certain that plastic is fully recyclable, and people who are conscious about producing waste spend plenty of time separating plastic waste for further recycling. Surprisingly, according to ‘The Engineer’ (2010) online magazine “only 12 per cent of the so-called municipal plastic solid waste is truly recycled” (para. 1). One would be surprised to find that it is plastic that accounts for 60-80 per cent of the marine waste (European Commission, 2011). Another problem posed by plastic is that it is still a relatively new material implying that the problem relating to plastic waste remains understudied (European Commission, 2011). The monitoring of plastic waste has only recently been undertaken, and the hazards caused by plastic wastes are alarming.
Given the adverse effects of plastic wastes on the environment, lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans, in particular, an intervention needs to be developed to help curb and mitigate the scope of the problem. If we look at an intervention attempting to stop a factory from dumping fuel into a nearby river, we will see that the focus shifts to a corporate giant, and it is, in the long run, not our responsibility. With plastic, however, we make our own choices regarding its disposal, and our choices affect the entire environment. With this in mind, the intervention is more likely to succeed, because people are more prone to changing their own behaviors, rather than assuming the responsibility for wastes produced by manufacturing giants.
The intervention relating to plastic management needs to be multi-faceted and address every possible angle of the problem. The intervention presented in this paper deals specifically with changing people’s behaviors towards littering and leaving plastic wastes on the beaches or near rivers.
Firstly, it should be admitted that people’s awareness of plastic waste and its dire consequences is very low. Walking around a local beach, or along the bank of the river, one will notice that 60-80% of all the trash comes from plastic (European Commission, 2011). Plastic waste is strongly associated with merely an unaesthetic and unpleasing look, and very few people are aware of its other hazardous effects.
The first stage of the intervention needs to deal with raising awareness of plastic waste in schools. Waste management and specifically plastic waste disposal needs to be a part of the school curriculum. Children need to learn from school that plastic waste is not only an ugly sight but may cause the death of fish and sea birds as a result of indigestion. Plastic found in seas and oceans degrades into minuscule pieces invisible to the eye (Kalle & Hirmo, 2014). These tiny pieces eventually find their way into the stomachs of sea plankton which later may end up on our dinner plates.
Consuming plastic which is contained in fish is dangerous to the immune system and may cause kidney and liver damage, lead to obesity, and lung dysfunction (Manuel et al., 2015). The intervention at school may start with a simple questionnaire which is designed to find out how much school children know about plastic and its effects on the eco-system. Once the questionnaire is filled out, informational leaflets need to be distributed with key facts and numbers. As children are moved by visual images, the leaflets may illustrate a picture event chain, starting from leaving a plastic bottle on the beach and ending in pieces of that same bottle in the stomach of a bird that mistakenly took the plastic for food and died as a result.
This chain may result in changes in children’s environmental behaviors, and many of them will eventually stop producing plastic waste. It is essential that the intervention targets school children, and does not focus on adults only; environmentally-friendly seeking behaviors need to start from school, thus increasing their effectiveness. As part of a summer break, school children may voluntarily participate in a plastic gathering event in the vicinity of a river or a local beach. By involving themselves in gathering plastic wastes, and seeing a huge pile of plastic waste collected, children are more likely to change their behavior, and stop littering once and for all.
The second stage of the intervention needs to start in colleges and universities and be addressed primarily to students and adults. There is a direct correlation between the level of adult awareness of plastic waste and their behavior (Manuel et al., 2015). An intervention study was conducted in India, a country which generates 5.6 million tons of plastic waste yearly (Manuel et al., 2015). It turned out that 70% of the students lacked knowledge regarding the hazardous effects of plastic waste (Manuel et al., 2015).
With this in mind, it is essential to emphasize the importance of awareness-raising programs in colleges and universities. The materials presented in colleges and universities need to be different and more in-depth as compared to the informational leaflets presented at schools. The effective intervention strategy needs to test adults’ existing knowledge of plastic waste with the use of a short questionnaire which requires 10 minutes to be filled. The questionnaire is crucial in showing the gaps in adults’ knowledge. For the intervention strategy to be successful and yield positive results, the interventions arranged in colleges or universities need to take place regularly and become a part of the curriculum.
For the third stage of the intervention, students, adults and all of the interested parties may use social media platforms for their voices to be heard. A short descriptive post on Facebook, or a link leading to the post in Twitter, may result in hundreds and even thousands of people sharing and disseminating it.
Summing up, the proposed intervention will tackle the plastic waste from the three angles. The first one will address children starting from school as environmentally-friendly attitudes need to be cultivated from the early years. The second stage will address students in colleges and universities. The third stage, which will employ various social media platforms, will be instrumental in raising overall awareness of plastic waste hazards.
There is a strong likelihood that the intervention will succeed because it does not require changes in environmental legislation, which is highly unrealistic or, if attempted, may linger on for years. Secondly, the intervention does not require that corporate manufacturing giants make changes to their production procedures. Conversely, the intervention addresses people directly, because they are the ones responsible for producing plastic waste. Thirdly, the intervention starts at the community or home level, and more actions undertaken at the lower levels may result in a better national outcome.
European Commission. (2011). Plastic Waste: Ecological and Human Health Impacts. Web.
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Kalle, K., & Hirmo, M. (2014). 10 Important Facts About Illegal Trash. Web.
Manuel, J., Varghese, J., Jose, J., Thomas, J. K., Joseph, J., & Shettigar, D. (2015).
An educational intervention programme on hazards of plastic waste and its disposal among adults: a rural community based study. Nitte University Journal of Health Science, 5(2), 16-18. Web.
The Engineer. (2010). Plastic waste could be recycled through new pyrolysis process. Web.