From Noise to Toys to Kois: Nothing to LOL about

By Tess Hellner-Mestelman
Elementary Category (Grades 4-6)
Study | Energy and Natural Resources, Environment

My project is about plastics. I love toys like LOL dolls and Shopkins and my dad always asked me if I knew where plastic came from. This year I decided to learn where plastic comes from, how it’s processed into toys, what happens to toys once they are no longer wanted, and how to reduce the problems of plastics in the environment.

I watched educational videos and discovered that plastic comes from oil and oil comes from the break down of plants and animals that have been decomposing for thousands of years. Then the dead animals and plants get covered with sand and other underwater stuff and eventually turn into oil. The oil is summoned with an oil pump and travels through long pipes to a factory. Some of these pipes are thousands of kilometres long. The oil is combined with water and air and they make plastic pellets. The plastic pellets are heated and melted, turned into liquid plastic and the liquid is turned into a mold and cooled down. Then it comes out as such toys like rubber ducks and LOL dolls. They are painted, packaged and shipped off to a toy store where kids like me buy them.

I was surprised by everything I had learned, and I wondered whether other kids knew where their plastic toys came from. I designed a questionnaire for students in grades four to eight at my school to test their knowledge about this topic. I then gave a teaching presentation to share what I had learned about plastics and answered all their questions. I finished with a second questionnaire to see if the students had learned something and if they felt that this knowledge would change their buying and recycling behaviour. The survey showed that students in higher grades usually knew more about where plastics came from and the risks to the environment of moving oil through pipes and of plastic in landfill sites. Most kids across all grades didn’t know things like how long microplastics take to break down and about how much of plastics in Canada can be recycled into new plastic toys. Most students in grades 4-8 felt that they had learned something new from my presentation and many students said that their behaviour around buying and recycling plastic would change as a result of what they had learned.

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