Towards Zero Waste? Listen to the kids!

Unlimed free plastic bags in supermarkets? A hot topic in Singapore for years, and with countries all over the world now banning or charging for plastics, many are wondering why, in the year named ‘towards zero waste’ by SG govt., there are no immediate plans to change this law on supermarket bags. But where others are standing by and thinking ‘one person can’t make a difference’, an 11-year-old student has taken the issue into her own hands.

Today is World Environment Day and to celebrate this, Singapore encourages action for the environment with the nationwide campaign “Eco Action Day”. Here, businesses, schools and individuals can pledge to a number of actions, such as switching to LED lights, using less water flow for washing or bringing your own water bottle.

Another one of the listed pledges “Mr Tan Meng Dui, CEO of National Environment Agency Singapore replied: “We are looking at the issue for our 2024 master plan, but in Singapore, we need to bag the rubbish and we need the supermarket bags so we can incinerate our waste”.

Mr Tang Meng Dui is right, we do need to bag the rubbish, the question is whether giving out up to 15 bags per shop is the right solution, and many wonders why paying for plastic bags or complete bans is happening all over the world, but not here.

One of them is Catalina.

In just a few days, Catalina Marque has received an impressive 500 signatures for her petition “Ban Plastic Bags in Supermarkets in Singapore”.  And although this is not the first petition against the use of free plastic bags in Singaporean Supermarkets, the difference here is that Catalina Marque is just 11 years old.

So what makes an 11-year-old follow in the footsteps of Gretha Thurnberg (15-year-old Swedish activist) and take things into her own hands? We interviewed the UWC student to hear the why, the how and the what can we do.

What made you want to start a petition against the use of plastic bags?

I’d been browsing at what had been done before, and I thought it would be best to do a petition on one topic where a small change could make a big difference. Plastic bags were something I could relate to, as I know that in many countries you have to pay for them or they’re getting banned altogether. I thought “What if we made it illegal?”.

Have you always been passionate about this?

I have,  the idea that we took over the planet thinking it was ok to do so much damage, makes me want to help and create change. We’ve been learning this at school, but also at home.  We have our own composting bim, use beeswax wrap instead of cling film,  we bring our 0wn bags and use metal straws to name a few. We try to decline our plastic waste as much as possible, although sometimes it can be hard when wanting a packet of biscuits – or having to remember our own container for takeaway food.

Is it important that these initiatives come from you, the children do you think?

Yes, I think it’s important for children to do it – because children are 100%  the future. The people in charge now will sooner or later die – so we need to do something about it now, we can’t leave it to all these people who won’t be here in the near future.

You are currently discussing climate issues at school and you have chosen to write a project on fashion waste – what are your findings?

I’ve learned that every 5 min. one ton of textile waste is wasted. in 2015 over 250.o00 tons of got thrown away. When you throw away clothing such as dyes, synthetic indigo which polite natural fibres – it can affect the wildlife and affect the health of people in the villages. Some clothes have the natural dyes, some the poisonous dyes – but it’s har do know if they’re telling the truth or not – as the laws are not great on this.

Can you give any tips on what other kids can to do make a difference?

With the plastic bag, for example, the simple way is to just bring your own bag, but you can always raise awareness about it – and not focus just on the negative but also the good things that we can do. If you raise the awareness and consign other people to do the same – it then becomes a good cycle.

What can we do as parents?

Tell us about the problems and make us feel scared about it so we feel bad and obliged to take action. If you’re just told to do something, that doesn’t work – if I was a parent I’d make sure to scare my children.

Catalina’s is hoping to get at least 1.000 signaurs – sign her pledge here , and we will, of course, follow the progress, all the way up to the NEA!


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