Meet the Siblings Fighting Plastic Pollution
Ashton and Zara are a brother and sister pollution-busting superhero duo from the UK. Together they founded the Hidden Plastic, an initiative that teaches other kids about our planet’s plastic predicament and how they can be part of the solution.
Can you both tell us about your organization, Hidden Plastic, and what inspired you to start an environmental initiative?
Zara: Hidden Plastic educates people through a series of dark comedy videos on some of the problems, but also solutions, to the global micro-plastics issue. We started our journey in the summer of 2020 when we first joined Ocean Heroes Virtual Bootcamp (OHvBC). Part of the challenge for OHvBC was to start your own campaign, so we thought about what problems we should focus on. We realised that micro-plastics are very important but not as well addressed. We also thought we could focus on plastic that is 'hidden' from view, such as 'recycling' that is actually just sent overseas to countries that then can't handle the waste, or microscopic plastics seeping into Nature and our food supply.
Ashton: Microplastics are a big problem. They are everywhere: we inhale them, they're in our food, and they're in our water supplies. But small amounts add up, which means in one week, we ingest approximately one credit card worth of plastic. We started Hidden Plastic to raise more awareness about this problem by spreading information through our videos, which are funny & slightly surreal so people watch them again & again.
Zara: Quite a bit of my inspiration came from travel when we were fortunate enough to see marine life in the wild like snorkeling with a manta ray, which I feature in my art. I have always wanted to become a marine biologist, and at school, when I was 7 years old, I wrote a fact file about algae instead of fish like everyone else. The research about algae led to my concern about the symbiotic relationship between algae and the coral reefs.
Ashton: We've always been passionate as a family about the ocean and wanted to help it. When I was 8 years old, Zara and I got involved with the local Strike for Climate march. If we hadn't taken part in that, we might have just worried about the world's problems and felt like we could do nothing. But the climate strikes turned us from being people just worrying about the problems in the world into climate activists. Then we came across the Ocean Heroes Network in 2020. We thought it would be amazing to join other young ocean heroes around the world.
You create such a fun variety of educational videos on your YouTube channel! How do you come up with the different ideas for these?
Zara: I think what we do is to first think of a problem that we would like to address and research it. Then (with some help from our mum) we sit down and write the ideas and a script to make it entertaining and educational. For example, our unofficial mascot the 'sea chicken' came about from our first video where I had to dress up as a seabird. All we had at home was a chicken hat and hoped no one would notice (they did!). Sea chicken was born… and he/she returns regularly in our videos.
Ashton: First, we start off with a problem like micro-plastics everywhere, and then we get facts about it. Instead of making a distressing video, we try to make it funny. People remember things better when they are funny, so it seems to work for us. If they weren't funny, it would just be a dry, educational site. If adults dress up in sea chicken costumes, then people just think they're weird. But, when kids do it, that's OK!
How would you encourage other young kids to get involved with big issues like climate change and pollution?
Ashton: The problems may look big, but just take it one small step at a time. You don't have to cover all environmental issues, but just one small subject like sea turtles eating plastic bags, for example.
Zara: Such big problems may appear far too big and challenging for kids to be able to solve alone, but if we work together, we can solve them. Youth are very important and can touch adults in a more emotional way. Probably because we've not done anything to create the problems, but will inherit this world that is not in great shape at the moment. Kids could take a first step with a litter pick or join a protest or local environmental group. If they really feel up for it, I would recommend Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, because it is great at motivating you and preparing you to make a difference - no matter how big or small a campaign. Also, Ocean Heroes just launched their magazine called OH-WAKE, edited by a group of youth Ocean Heroes from around the world. OH-WAKE gives some great insights into topics like food waste reduction, tree planting, and soil restoration for those who are new to conservation. Ashton & I were fortunate enough to have been included in Issue #2 to share our journey so far. We hope this magazine encourages other kids to get involved and help solve the many problems around climate change, plastic pollution and other important issues.
I think many adults (myself included) believe your generation will finally be the one that truly makes the most significant positive impact on the climate crisis. What do you think about that? Is that too much pressure, or are you excited for the challenge?
Zara: I personally am quite excited about my generation, as I think we're up for the challenge as long as together we apply ourselves to it. I think that really we have no other choice because our planet is changing whether we like it or not. And it's our decision whether that change is for the better or worse.
Ashton: I'm excited about the challenge and think that our generation will bring the most positive changes to the planet. There are already some great solutions out there, and our generation will just bring more. Everyone has a role to play to make our planet what is should be.
Learn more about Hidden Plastic and watch Zara and Ashton's creative videos over at HiddenPlastic.org.