By Cher Antido
In celebration of Earth Month, brothers Hans and Nick Schippers brought awareness on Thursday to East Los Angeles College students on global plastic pollution and how it impacts the environment.
They came from Oahu, Hawaii representing Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a non-profit organization that organizes clean ups in their coastlines.
They were in the middle of their West Coast Educational Tour from Seattle to San Diego, stopping by various schools to teach students the effects of plastic pollution and how they can stop it.
“This is everybody’s problem,” Nick said.
The brothers gave a presentation on how plastic is made and where it ends up after use.They talked about an article from Life Magazine in the 1960s where they advertise the use of plastic. The article encouraged the theme “throwaway lifestyle.”
This lifestyle shows that people could save about 4 hours of their day by using plastic, such as pre-packaged goods and plastic utensils.
“If you could save 4 hours, would you?” Nick asked the students.
He said that plastic is cheap to manufacture. It’s cheap to purchase and pre-packaged food is quick to cook, saving people time. It’s convenient, but “this stuff starts to add up,” Hans said.
Hans explained the way plastic start to accumulate in the ecosystem. He said it doesn’t go away; it photodegrades. “Every piece of plastic ever created is still on Earth somewhere,” he said.
They showed students pictures of garbage landfills in underdeveloped countries like Indonesia that came from the U.S. and how they wash up on the beaches all over the world. Sea animals and birds are affected by this.
They showed pictures on the insides of dead animals full of plastic that they mistook for food and pictures of animals getting tangled with leftover nets left by irresponsible fishermen.
Plastic ends up in zooplanktons, sea plants that are responsible for the Earth’s oxygen. Most of the oxygen is created by the ocean, and if the ocean is contaminated, so is the air people breathe. “It starts to become really harmful to our ecosystem,” Nick said.
They informed that the pollution people do all comes back to them. Animals accidentally eat the plastic, and the toxic chemicals in those stay in their system.
Those animals essentially get eaten by humans, and no matter how much it’s cooked and washed, humans end up eating those chemicals as well.
The brothers also talked about their organization, the Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, and talked to students about how they can help reduce this pollution.
They encouraged students to practice A.I.R.— avoid, intercept, and redesign.
To help solve the pollution problem, students can avoid plastic and start using reusable items in their daily lives.
Students can intercept the problem by participating in beach clean ups. They can redesign plastic by recycling and using it for other things such as art and homemade tools.
“Individual action affected upon millions equal results,” Hans said. “We challenge you to take a personal control of your own life and see what you can cut out.”
ELAC student Kelly Figueroa was impressed and was motivated to change.
“The majority of information they provided was eye-opening. Especially when they explained the story of plastic,” Figueroa said.
She thought about ways the Husky Pantry, an ELAC food pantry, can reduce their use of plastic.
“Now that I think about it we buy a lot of plastic. How can we kill two birds with one stone— address food insecurity but at the same time buy products that use less plastic?” Figueroa asked.
It will be difficult, however, since the food in the ELAC pantry are all prepackaged in plastic containers.
The two brothers advised her in buying food in bulk and putting food in reusable containers for students.
“Try looking into areas and find food that aren’t prepackaged,” Hans Schipper told her.
The brothers said it’s not about government or politics; it’s much more personal than that.
“Plastic pollution is just about malama ‘aina, (which means) take care of the place that you come from and you call home.
“At the end of the day, we all need this place to keep going. We all need the air that we breathe.
We all need the clean beaches and clean streets to raise our children. That’s all it is,” Hans said.