Environment

Byron Bay schoolboy the eco-hero of the war against plastic

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He may still be a schoolboy, but Byron Bay 13-year-old Arlian Ecker, a young man in a hurry to wake the world from its apathy towards dumping plastic bottles and bags into the rubbish, has held court among some of the Asia-Pacific's most important movers and shakers.

On day two of the Asia Pacific Cities Summit, a conference of leaders from 130 cities from across the globe, Arlian disarmingly made them think about the shocking ramifications of basic plastic waste.

 Plastic Free Boy Arlian Ecker captivates the audience at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cities Summit.

Plastic Free Boy Arlian Ecker captivates the audience at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cities Summit.Credit:Tony Moore

He began speaking against the backdrop showing a smiling boy around the same age swimming on the beach of an unidentified Asian beach, goggles over his eyes.

Embarrassingly, this unidentified beach is choked in plastic rubbish. Just dumped plastic garbage.

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Australian beaches are relatively clean, but Queensland and Australia are among the world's worst plastic waste exporting offenders.

"I believe my generation is ready to make the changes," Arlian told the dignatories at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

"We just need your generation to open the door."

Then, as slightly nervous laughter from some of the smartest minds in the Asia-Pacific filled the Brisbane auditorium, he laid it on the line.

"In 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish," Arlian said.

"I'm just a kid, but I make a difference.

"In fact this difference has impacted over 100,000 children and students from around the world."

Arlian has gained prominence through his appearances at schools and YouTube as Plastic Free Boy.

His hatred of plastic waste dates back two years ago when as an 11-year-old, he witnessed three sea turtles that had swallowed plastic being retuned to the ocean.

"I asked myself 'Why aren't these sea turtles in the ocean already?'," he said.

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"Suddenly, I woke up to an environmental crisis threatening my generation's future and future generations to come.

"I learned that we have long known that plastic in landfills and in our oceans is a growing environmental risk.

"More recently we have come to understand that plastic is an urgent and deadly threat to human health as well."

Arlian put a list of 10 plastic facts up on the giant screen.

Among them, that one million plastic water bottles are sold every minute.

"How do you feel about these facts?" he asked.

"I feel terrified. I learned that by the time I am 42 years old, in 2050, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish.

"When millions of people have relied on seafood, by 2050 they will not have food. They will be part of the 400 million climate refugees in the next 30 years.

"Now this effected me massively. I thought my future would be comfortable. I would go to school, go to university, get a job, 'happy wife-happy life', but all of that disappeared in front of my eyes.

"None of my generation will be able to experience the world that you all do now, unless we act now."

Arlian paused. He had his audience.

"Unless we act now," he said.

Australia is beginning to look at its plastic recycling over the next five years, Queensland has banned some single-use plastic bags and begun a well-received recycling scheme.

"But will it be enough?" Arlian asked.

He had an analogy. When water spills we mop it up and turn it off at the tap. When plastic spills into the environment we should "turn it off at the tap".

"We have realised what we are doing now and we should shift our habits now," he said.

"We shift our lifestyle from one of convenience and 'eaRead More – Source