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'Microplastic Madness,' an inspiring story of kids helping the planet

Fifth-graders from P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn dive into the root causes of plastic pollution and spark a movement in "Microplastic Madness."



For adults who find the horrifying reality of climate change too overwhelming to explain to young children, "Microplastic Madness," a feature-length film screening at the 15th annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle is the perfect entry point.  (Full festival details here and a Q&A with the local mom who runs the event.)

The film follows 56 fifth-graders from P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, as they investigate the root causes of plastic pollution and work toward eliminating all single-use plastic packaging in schools. The story is inspiring, heartfelt and educational.

Lyda Harris, a PhD candidate at University of Washington who studies microplastic pollution in the Salish Sea will introduce Microplastic Madness when it plays on Saturday, February 29, at 5:30 p.m. Harris has made it her life's work to understand how microplastics affect marine organisms, how urban centers contribute to pollution rates, and how we can use science to inform policy. 

We caught up with Harris on the dangers of microplastics, what to expect from the film, and how families can fight for a plastic-free future.


What are microplastics and how do they harm our environment? 

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic (<5mm). There are two types, primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are plastics that are produced at a small size (beads in face wash) while secondary microplastics start as larger plastics (plastic bag) and break apart by physical forces like waves or UV into small pieces. Microplastics are ubiquitous in our environment: They are in our air, our drinking water, our food, and our environment. We know there are adverse effects of consuming microplastics like decreased immune systems and growth in organisms like oysters, however, we do not know the full capacity at which they harm our environment. That said, globally we produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year and it stays in our environment for 500-1,000 years. 


Why do you think "Microplastic Madness" is a great film for kids? 

Having a student-led film captures the opinions and points of views from kids for kids. This film is a wonderful example of peers speaking to other peers about the issue and what they can do about it. Change often starts at home and at school -- with kids pushing towards greener and more sustainable practices there is hope for the older generations.


Is there anything that parents should know before they go? 

Bring an open mind and get ready to learn from the kids.


How can Seattle families get involved in the Plastic-Free Future movement? 

Push for stronger policies at school surrounding plastics. When out and about, bring a reusable water bottle and coffee mug, perhaps even a cutlery set. Anything that you can do to refuse single-use plastic is best. Instead of buying new, look into reused options (thrift stores, worn wear, buy-nothing groups). If you must buy new, opt for higher-quality products that will last a long time. There are many other ways to get involved around Seattle. Many companies and organizations put together wonderful beach cleanup opportunities around. Additionally, Puget SoundKeepers offers free kayaking on Lake Union every Wednesday morning to collect trash and clean our waters.


If you go:

"Microplastic Madness," Saturday, February 29, at 5:30 pm. Recommended for children 8+. Buy tickets to Children’s Film Festival Seattle here.


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