Exploring the Permanence of Plastic
Michele Li ('18)
St. Mark’s School
I think there are several factors that led to involvement and passion regarding sustainability, but I think my community has been my greatest impact, particularly my home country of China, and my own family’s involvement in and concern regarding pollution and sustainability. As a resident of China for the first fourteen years of my life, I have read about and seen firsthand how the environment has been polluted by the irresponsible behavior of people. I became interested in sustainability hoping to do my part to raise awareness, reduce my own waste of single-use products, reuse and recycle paper and be a role model so others would do the same. I think my small family environment has also influenced me on my engagement in this realm. My father’s company recycles methane emitted from coal mines and turns it into electricity. Influenced by his work, I also wish to contribute my efforts into doing my part to help in preserving the environment. As a result of these influences, I decided to learn more about plastic manufacturing and pollution when I was thinking of a background for my first Studio assignment this year. Images of plastic pollution caught my attention: a man rowing a raft made of plastic in a plastic ocean, kids standing in shallow water covered by plastic.
Plastics are ubiquitous and while they provide convenience to our lives, they are an infamous source of pollution. Unlike other materials, plastics never degenerate, so all the plastic products we use and produce stay with us forever. Used plastics may lie anywhere, on the beaches, by the streets, and so on, becoming undesirable scenes everywhere. They can only be broken down into tiny pieces of plastic, and these particles would pollute the air, soil, and ocean, contaminating them. Some may wonder, why should I care? I think the biggest problem is that plastic pollution is detrimental to animals, beings that are incapable of protecting themselves. Plastics invade their habitats, and they are deformed or killed because of our ignorance of the danger of excessive plastic use. Besides the moral reason, the more direct reason for bringing our attention to this issue is that these microplastic particles will be consumed by marine animals, which are then consumed by humans. The chemicals in plastics will therefore cause harm to us.
Through my work, I wish to encourage others to care about plastic pollution, especially in the oceans. My print suggests that while the seasons change and so many things in the world transform, plastics stay the same. I hope to inspire viewers to think about the longevity of plastics the next time they use a single-use plastic bottle or similar plastic products and perhaps try to make more sustainable decisions after thinking about the environmental consequences of their actions.