What keeps Kiwi kids awake at night? Nine-year-old Lucy Jones' mind often wanders to a troubling video of a turtle, cut open to reveal a plastic bag in its stomach.
"It just stays in my brain," she says. "It thought the bag was a jellyfish. I felt really bad for the turtle, it was so cruel."
Lucy and her classmates at Auckland’s Point Chevalier School are taking a stand.
They're asking adults to stop reaching for that plastic bag at the supermarket checkout, and take their own reusable ones instead.
They understand that grown ups are busy, and it can be hard to remember. "They just kind of want to get their shopping and they're not thinking too much about the world at that moment," Joe McLean says.
So the kids are being their parents' conscience, stashing reusable bags in handbags and cars. Tara Milkop-Kerr even goes shopping with her father to make sure he doesn't come home with plastic bags. "I say 'Dad we have to use fabric or we’re being as bad as everyone else who’s littering the world'."
They're urging other kids to tell their parents the same.
COUNTING THE COST
- New Zealand uses 1.6 billion plastic bags a year
- Each bag is used for an average of 15 minutes.
- 40,000 plastic bags go to the dump each hour
- A third of turtles found dead on our beaches have swallowed plastic
The children have the backing of one of New Zealand's biggest supermarket chains. This year, Countdown is phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags in its stores, and online shopping, saving 350 million bags annually. The company thinks children are key to making the change.
"They’re really receptive and open to new ideas," Countdown Supermarkets spokesperson Kiri Hannifin says. "I think when we get older we get more set in our ways and our behaviours are much harder to change whereas kids, their mindsets are wide and they've got such love for animals and the planet that they're much more keen to make a difference."
Kiri says her children have banned her from using plastic bags. "If I came into a store and didn't bring a [reusable] bag I’d have to walk with the groceries in my hand because my kids wouldn’t let me leave with a plastic bag! So they are my conscience and my driver to do the right thing."
The Point Chevalier School children say big changes can come from each person making a small effort. "Sometimes you think - I'm just one person how does it make a difference?"
Sian Christie says. "But most people think that - and one person CAN just make a difference."
They have a simple challenge for every New Zealand kid: remind your parents to take reusable bags with them, and just say no to that plastic bag at the checkout.
This story was created for Countdown, which is committed to reducing the use of plastic across its business.