The twelve-year-old boy named Arlian Ecker is on a self-identified mission to save the world, at least one school at the time. He is also known under his “superhero identity”, in which he refers to himself as “Plastic-Free Boy”, with the purpose of making recycling cool. His goal is for his persona to be on your mind whenever you are in a situation like at the checkout line of a store, and you can choose not to grab a single-use plastic bag.
Arlian is aware of the values he wants to embody and the goals he wishes to reach when he slips into his superhero shirt and patrols outside of supermarkets, educating adults on what happens or can potentially happen with the plastic bag that they are holing. How in certain circumstances, the plastic bag may end up in a turtle’s stomach. This actually brings us to the inspiration and motivational drive behind Arlian’s efforts. The moment that sparked this in the boy was on his last birthday, when he witnessed three rehabilitated turtles being released back into their natural habitat, the ocean. Upon seeing this, Arlian asked his mother why these poor creatures were not in the ocean already, as they stem from there.
To explain this to her son, she took him on a visit to the “hospital” that the turtles were in, the Australian Seabird Rescue Center in northern New South Wales. There Arlian learned that “When a turtle eats a plastic bag, the bag could get heaps of air in it and it floats on the top of the water. The turtle can’t swim down to the food” Arlian explained.
Upon this, Arlian and his family decided to produce a movie about turtles. This initial idea however, evolved into a feature piece about the negative effects of plastic waste. As these turtles were misplaced from their natural environment due to them being harmed by plastic pollutants. This is the feature film, fittingly titled “Plastic Alarm”, which is now Plastic-Free Boy’s latest weapon in his arsenal against his self-declared war on waste. In his efforts to educate, he aims at reaching out to children, contacting schools and presenting his film and the ideals for which it stands at school assemblies. The reason Arlian is targeting schools in particular, is that he recognises kids as being the future of the planet. He goes to say that “kids will grow up and they’ll be owning factories and businesses, and they can make the right choice — like don’t use single-use plastic bags.”
Unfortunately, on his path to achieve his goals, it is not always smooth sailing for the young superhero. He has been a victim of bullying attacks for trying to save the planet and realise his vision. Arlian understand this however, as he says that “it just takes a while for some kids to know that is what’s happening on Earth and [that] they can help. They don’t just have to be scared about it.”
It is nonetheless quite hard for him to hear from some kids that he confronts and tries to educate, that he is lying. To some people like Keith Williams form the Australian Seabird Rescue, Arlian is a true hero, as it surely takes a bunch of courage to try to tackle such a massive issue. Williams goes on to state that: “I think it is incredibly brave for a young man to be so outspoken and take on an issue that is as big as plastic in the environment. I think many of us would see such a big problem and we would run away from it.”
What is truly impressive to see, as outlined by Williams, is the fact that Arlian is extremely committed. One would really notice so when talking to him, and once one were to meet him, you would comprehend that it is one of his focal points. Naturally, Arlian has also winning moments, that really boost his confidence. One of these moments was at Byron Community Primary School where his idea and film were highly appreciated and well received.
In any case, it is highly impressive for such a young individual to already have his priorities in order. In a self-centred world and society, it can be fairly refreshing to have someone that doesn’t merely care about himself but also about others around him. We believe that we can learn a lot form a person like Arlian, that is willing to go through much hardship to achieve a goal for the greater good!