Earth Day question-Where do old plastic bottles go?

This year Earth Day was almost eclipsed by all of our preparations for Easter. We decided to dedicate the last day of our Easter camp to educating our gang on a very important question, “Where do old plastic bottles go?”. We put a mountain of old milk bottles in the middle of our play rug and asked the kids this very question. The answers were sometimes funny in that one girl answered, “they become lions” (referring to a project in which we turned three plastic bottles into a Friendly Lion) but for the most part the answer was good “into the recycling bin”.

Then we introduced a rather sad but important reality. Charles Moore returning from a yatching competition discovered what has been called “Trash Island” off of the coast of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. This floating mass is sometimes referred to as the Seventh Continent in that it is HUGE-2500 kilometers of plastic. We took this opportunity to explain that plastic does not biodegrade in the water but that the ocean and the sun break it into little pieces that float and are brought together from all over the world by currents and deposited in the trash island causing it to become one of the largest dumps in the world.

After a long discussion on the implications of this mass of plastic (fish and birds eating it and beaches in Hawaii being dirtied by trash-there are entire dunes that are made out of plastic “sand” believe it or not), we offered the kids an alternative use for their trash. We turned a plastic bottle into a simple terrarium. I did not come up with this idea but found it in multiple places online. TLC family offers a good explanation on how it works.

In summary:
We cut our milk bottles in half around 7,5 cm from the bottom of the bottle. We kept the “top” half and made four vertical cuts so that it could be refit over the top in order to close the terrarium. The kids then filled the bottom half with moistened soil and planted it with basil seeds. We decorated a label and explained that the terrarium needed to be put in a sunny window. The heat from the sun will cause the water to evaporate and condense on the top of the bottle and then “rain” down on our sprouting basil plants. If the soil seems too dry then just unscrew the bottle top and spray a little water on the soil. Once the basil plants have started to grow, they can be transplanted to a garden or a window planter. Obviously, they need to remember that the old plastic bottle should to be thrown in the recycling bin at the end.

Stay tuned for more ideas on how to keep plastic bottles out of the sea!

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