Campaign for microplastic reduction

Seoul University YMCA delivers successful initiatives, works for a Sustainable Planet

By: Jimin Choi, Nari Lee, Seoyeon Kim

Translated by: Seoyeon Kim

Seoul University YMCA, where students plan and operate YMCA activities, includes students from Korea University, Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul Women’s University, and Cha University of Medicine. To raise awareness about the dangers of microplastics and efforts to reduce them, we organised an event based on Sustainable Development Goal 14, understanding the conservation of marine ecosystems.

Last November, we conducted two campaigns: At Yeonnam-dong Gyeongui Line Forest Road and at the Sookmyung Women’s University of Business Management’s End-of-Year Event.

The campaign’s main goal was to raise awareness of the dangers of microplastics and obtain signatures pledging to reduce the use of plastic. Microplastics:

  • Disrupt the habitat of microorganisms and destroy the topography of coral reefs.
  • Accumulate in marine organisms when they mistakenly consume them as food.
  • Pose a threat to our food supply, affecting humans who consume marine life.

Event activities

Among the various pathways for microplastic ingestion, we focused on plastic bottled water. In animal experiments, up to 10,000 pieces of plastic were detected in a single bottle of bottled water, indicating that it could cause developmental and reproductive problems.

We aimed to:

  • Inform about the factors threatening marine ecosystems.
  • Highlight the importance of marine ecosystems.
  • Introduce a campaign to reduce underwater microplastics by promoting ‘reduced microplastic bottled water’.

Dietary habits: We introduced microplastic-free snacks and bottled water as part of our campaign activities. Through this campaign, we aimed to make citizens aware of the dangers of microplastics and take the first step in changing their dietary habits.

‘Setting a Table’: We organised the activity ‘Setting a Table without Microplastics’ using recycled delivery boxes. Using picture cards, we explained the risks associated with microplastics in seafood and plastic-bottled water. Additionally, we presented products manufactured by the Korean company ‘Natural Dream’ that are free of microplastics. Everyone who participated received paper-packed bottled water and snacks through a lucky draw.

Proving information: In addition, we developed pamphlets containing information about microplastics and their impact on marine ecosystems and distributed them to citizens. We also provided stickers on water bottles, explaining how to dispose of paper-packed bottled water and important information on preventing microplastics in daily life.

Obtaining signatures: We participated in an activity related to the ongoing ‘Paper Pack Recycling Support and No Plastic Campaign’ by Natural Dream Company. This campaign aims to reduce plastic production, promote recycling, and minimise the use of plastic, especially in plastic water bottles, by obtaining signatures from as many people as possible.

Since the official start of the campaign was in November and outdoor activities tend to be less appealing in colder weather, we aimed to conduct the campaign at the end of November. This led to a tight preparation schedule.

The most significant concern during campaign preparation was obtaining sponsorship items from ‘Natural Dream.’ Initially, ‘Natural Dream’ expressed reluctance due to the tight campaign schedule. However, by presenting a clear plan and explaining the purpose of the campaign, ‘Natural Dream’ provided sponsorship on a larger scale than expected.

We held a brainstorming session on what activities to carry out on the first day, which was one of the most memorable days of the conference. The process of freely exchanging ideas was enjoyable, and although we initially thought there were limited activities students could do on the topic of ‘microplastics,’ we eventually came up with activities that directly conveyed interesting information about the subject to citizens.

We were able to achieve meaningful results by approaching the campaign with a mindset of challenge and imagination. Since we were students and this was our organisation, it was a meaningful preparation process.

Eager for information

Though the weather was quite cold on the day, surprisingly, there were many enthusiastic participants, and they were a diverse group. The ‘Setting a Table’ activity, in particular, attracted great interest.

The most memorable aspect was that many people who were already interested in microplastics attended. However, by specifically explaining the impact on marine ecosystems and our bodies and the significant risk of microplastic contamination in commonly consumed foods and plastic bottled water, we were able to raise citizens’ awareness to a higher level.

On the other hand, we faced difficulties because people were less interested due to the cold weather and the topic of microplastics. However, by adjusting content to suit participants, we made sure they enjoyed the event. By achieving the goal of “effectively informing citizens about microplastics directly,” we concluded the event at Gyeongui Line Forest Road.

In addition, we provided sponsorship items of paper-packed bottled water, Deep Sea Salt Cookies, and Egg Cookies for Sookmyung Women’s University’s business management department’s year-end event. It was gratifying to raise awareness of the severity of the microplastic issue and introduce paper-packed bottled water as a solution. Post-event, we learned people found the water and snacks delicious, with some even ordering more immediately after tasting them.

Therefore, we believe it is a good idea to continue collaborating with various university events to increase awareness of environmental issues.

As a result of this activity, we received signatures from over 200 people, enabling us to raise awareness about SDG 14, microplastics, and working to create a Sustainable Planet. Therefore, it is important to continue engaging people in environmental issues in the future through a variety of campaign activities to maintain their interest in the environment over time.