April 27, 2022 at 12:00:33 AM
The Break Free From Plastic Youth Summit brought youth organizations together for a global virtual gathering on April 8-10, 2022. This served as a platform for youth to discuss revolutionary projects, to understand the intersectional issues on plastic, and to band together to map out their generation’s action plan to shift the world away from single-use plastic.
The first day of the summit focused on laying out the links of plastic to climate and environmental justice. Movement experts helped participants gain an understanding of all the ways plastic affects communities big and small, and how each person living on this planet is connected to this crisis. The workshop sessions gave a chance for youth leaders to compare the ways in which plastic affects their communities, countries, and themselves.
Day two of the summit gave participants a chance to hear from young leaders like themselves, who have led successful campaigns in their own communities that eventually scaled up into national projects with other like-minded youth organizations. Participants were given a chance to discuss the framework of these projects and what they thought would be important to prioritize in their own local context.
The last day of the summit marked the launch of A Mighty Ocean, the documentary created by the BFFP Youth Ambassadors of 2021. Six youth ambassadors from Indonesia, India, Ghana, and Brazil gave participants a glimpse of how they personally experience climate change, and showed their stance as youth leaders who are demanding change from plastics producers and policymakers.
This session was followed by the youth manifesto co-design session, where participants drafted the action plans they are committing to as a global BFFP Youth Movement.
This group of young leaders are largely concentrated in the Global South, with the majority of participants from Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America. They are a portion of the largest generation of young people that are most impacted by climate change, and are the ones left to clean up the plastics crisis from decades of neglect of generations before them. This is the first gathering from BFFP that aimed to unite young leaders that are at the forefront of the plastics and climate crisis, to support the plans that they want to see within and outside the movement, and give the chance to collaborate with others.
Nina Azzahra, Co-captain of River Warrior Indonesia, said: “Before the 1980s, people bought products in tin, glass, paper, and cardboard. Very little products were packaged in plastic, and they were not created for single-use. So people did not produce much trash then. My mom told me that when she studied in school, her canteen would only sell fresh snacks and drinks, made by the sellers themselves.There is no styrofoam, straws, or plastic bottles. They use reusables. So we need to go back to those times where there are no sachets being sold in schools. Sachets are now littering our rivers, our seas, our beaches, and our roads, because industries produce too many sachets. It is not recyclable, especially the multi-layer ones.”
Alex Ben Ghanem, Data Analyst at United We Dream, said: “I started learning more and more that there was another aspect to this. I think that what truly drove my passion was the colonial aspect. That not only, was the world going to shit, as some would say. But there are clear perpetrators, and they don’t look like me. They don’t look like many people in this room. They are usually white folks. They are the colonizers that established the world order that we live in today, and forced us to consume plastic goods, forced us to consume fossil fuels, forced us to conform to a system that if we don’t, we’re either kicked out of the system or forcibly annexed in the system.”
Nikhilesh Paliath, Co-Founder & Senior Mentor, Green Army International, said: “When students started to go and campaign, they had so much energy. People listened to the students and that’s when cities and civil society organizations like Thanal, realized that students have much bigger power in communicating with people. People don’t say no to students. Even when students argue with residents about waste management practice, they listen to them. So we understood that students had much more communicating power, and that’s when students started getting more involved with our campaign.”
Betty Osei Bonsu, Project Coordinator at Green Africa Youth Organization, said in the global youth documentary: “Only a few people cannot make it. We need more people to come onboard. Little drops of water, they say, makes a mighty ocean. We need more youth, we need more voices, to actually campaign for the better environment we want to see.”
The Break Free From Plastic Youth Summit marks the beginning of the collaboration of young people in a wider range of countries who are representing their generation’s stance and action plans on the plastic pollution crisis. Their drafting of the youth manifesto serves as a guide for strategized action within and outside the BFFP Movement.
ReUni, CirculaCT, UFSC Plastic-free, Green Africa Youth Organization, Bring Back Green Foundation Kerala, Environmental Green Society Malang, Network of Woman Action to Save the Earth (NOWASTE), River Warrior, Zero Waste Youth Negros Oriental, Zero Waste Youth Romblon, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte