Kids Doing Rad Stuff: Kids Against Plastic

What are your names?

Amy and Ella Meek.

How old are you?

14 and 12.

Where are you from?

Nottingham, England.

Tell us a little bit about The Meek Family adventures…

Our parents have wanted us from a young age to be adventurous and enjoy the outdoors. When we were younger, we set ourselves a ‘Year of Adventures challenge’ going out to new places to try new things each weekend of the year. This then continued after we changed the challenge to ‘100 Family Adventures’. After completing this, things started to change for us. We won a caravan (long story!) and ended up leaving school, moving out of our house and our parents left their jobs so that we could all travel around the UK together for a year living in a caravan.

After the year finished we decided to continue to seek ‘ed-venture’ and travelled around Europe in a motorhome. It’s only recently that we have returned to bricks and mortar and school but still find time to go for family adventures whenever we can.

What is the best adventure you have been on?

Ella: My favourite adventure was sleeping on a beach. It was a pebbly beach on the Norfolk coastline. We were all sleeping in bivy bags. What made it special was that in the middle, thanks to me needing a wee and waking everyone up, we lay looking up at the sky and saw lots and lots of shooting stars and the milky way.  We discovered the next day that we had witnessed the Perseid shower.

What’s your favourite thing to do as a family?

We love going for walks and camps in the countryside, looking for wildlife. Ella especially is a keen animal lover and is always on the lookout for any wildlife that she can see.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Ella: There are a few places that I would like to travel to for different reasons. I would love to travel to Borneo and see the orangutans in their natural environment, Basecamp in Nepal for the challenge and see Everest and finally, a couple of destinations that I’d like to visit in Europe include Greece and Italy for their history.

Amy: Canada (wildness, nature), Australia (Eco-tourism), New Zealand.

What are your favourite things to do outside?

As a family we love walking, looking for wildlife, paddling down rivers and canals and camping.

What do you love most about nature?

Ella: I love the animals. Have I said that I am a keen animal lover?! I love to see animals, big and small in their natural environment and one day hope to be a TV presenter like Steve Backshall and spend lots of time in the outside filming animals.

Amy: What I really love about nature is how wild and untameable it is. No matter how powerful we are as humans, the strength of nature can really bring us to our knees. That’s why it’s so sad and sickening that our actions are having such a negative effect on the planet, and why it’s actually going to harm us as much as it is the Earth (the recent natural disasters are a stark warning).

What’s the happiest memory you have from this year so far?

Ella: I have a few happy memories. I felt very proud when I made nine cafes Plastic Clever in one day. I also felt very proud when we reached a total of 25,000 pieces of plastic that we had picked up in our quest to collect 100,000 (one for each sea mammal killed each year by plastic). I was extremely happy to meet Steve Backshall (for a second time) when we had the honour of introducing his talk at the Steppes Beyond festival earlier this year.

Amy: Like Ella, I have a few happy memories too! I loved speaking at the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly during our summer travels with an organisation called eXXpedtion. It was also really exciting to attend the London screening of a Sky documentary we featured in about plastic pollution and eXXpedition, called A Plastic Voyage.

What are your biggest achievements?

Last year we won the Nottingham Post Environmental award. Another one of our achievements has been to get some amazing people to support our campaign. We have met many amazing people and are proud that they are Kids Against Plastic Supporters.

Who inspires you?

David Attenborough, Steve Backshall, Bye Bye Plastic Bags – two girls in Bali that have succeeded in getting plastic bags banned on the island of Bali.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?

David Attenborough!

When did you discover the issue of plastic pollution?

While we were being home-schooled we learnt about the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. We focussed on three of the goals: Life Below Water, Sustainable Consumption and Climate Action. The issue of plastic pollution cropped up again and again. We learnt a lot about the impact of plastic and why it is so bad for the environment. One of the aims of the UN Global Goals is to not only learn about them but to share them and most importantly, take action.

How long ago did you start ‘Kids Against Plastic’?

We began our campaign about two years ago and it has grown a lot in that time.

Tell us a little bit about ‘Kids Against Plastic’ and what you do…

Kids Against Plastic is a campaign encouraging primarily kids – the future generation that will inherit this problem – to take action. Our main aims are:

  • To educate people about the negative impact of single-use plastic

  • To inspire people (and organisations) to take action with easy-to-do ideas of things they can do to reduce their footprint and become more Plastic Clever

  • To pick up 100,000 pieces of plastic beverage items and microplastics from the environment. (100,000 represents the number of sea animals killed each year due to plastic)

  • To clear single-use petroleum-based plastic bottles off UK supermarket shelves

What was it that made you both become passionate about wanting to stop plastic pollution?

We are keen lovers of wildlife and seeing the impact that plastic is having on animals, in particular marine life, inspired us to take action and want to make a change. We were shocked to hear that over a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by plastic in the oceans every year. It is also worrying to think about the impacts it has on us – plastic is entering our food chains, water cycle and is even in the air we breathe!

What do you do to educate other people about the issue?

We do talks around the country, at festivals, schools, conferences and events and take along our interactive information table for people to find out more. We also regularly post on social media about relevant news and make our own videos.

What are your top tips for anyone looking to live a plastic-free life?

It is almost impossible to live a plastic-free life. Plastic has its purposes and the fact that it never biodegrades and is a strong, durable material means that it is good for products that you use again and again. It is the single-use plastic that people use for 5-10 minutes and then throw away that is impacting the planet.

So we try to encourage people to be Plastic Clever; think about the products that you buy and whether you can buy alternatives that aren’t plastic. In particular, try to refuse the Big Four Plastic Polluters: plastic cups + lids, plastic bags, plastic straws and plastic bottles. Instead, carry reusable items with you. It often saves you money as well as saving the planet!

What are your goals for the new year?

We are hoping to grow the Plastic Clever scheme and encourage individuals, families, cafes, businesses and even councils to become Plastic Clever.

If you could change anything in the world, what would you change?

Just one thing? Well, that’s certainly tricky, but something that we’d really love to change is us humans’ priorities of money and profit over real world issues – in particular environmental ones. The reason single-use plastic is so widely used for our take-out items is because it’s so cheap and convenient, and that’s why it will be so hard to encourage the large corporations to change the packaging they use.

So if we could change something, it would be to change the throwaway lifestyle and materialistic mindset of people and companies e.g. Coke.

What is the impact you want to have on the world when you grow up?

Well, this issue isn’t one that we’re going to stop campaigning about when are no longer kids.

We hope that what we are doing will ultimately impact positively on the environment through drastic changes in product design, improved recycling and a greater awareness of the public.