Acting on her passion ignited by the PYP Exhibition, Nicole S, a sixth-grader at AISB, created an illustrated story and podcast to raise awareness on waste management and its impact on the environment.

Nicole’s story follows plastic bottle cap Mr. D on his journey through the Romanian waste management system. Along the way, Nicole shines a light on the deeply-rooted issue surrounding how we treat and manage trash—encouraging audiences to dispose waste responsibly for the benefit of the environment.

Inspired by her initiative, The Bite reached out to Nicole to hear more about her story.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A: Hi! My name is Nicole and I am Romanian. I am in grade 6 and I have gone to this school since 2015. I am a sensitive person and I like to express myself through painting, drawing, jewelry making, and music. I am inspired by my imagination, but I also feature nature in my art. 

Q: What motivates your love of the environment? 

A: Besides being my source of inspiration, I think that when we connect with nature, this can help us connect more with ourselves. Being out in nature, we can see the cycle of life as well as the value of the landscapes around us. This is why I think we should unite our efforts to protect the environment. If each of us can be more conscious of environmental issues and willing to take some simple steps to save the Earth, we can make a huge contribution.

Q: What is your current unit about in grade 6 and what did you learn about?

A: In my Humanities and English class, our last module was about how we can inspire others to take action on an issue in a local community, related to one or more UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals).

Q: What inspired you to write this story? 

A: The story is called “The Future Is Ours” and it was my Independent Writing Piece, being part of my PYPX Project last year. As we all know, the PYPX is based on the UN SDGs, and each student chooses an SDG to research in-depth. My project was related to SDG14: “Life Below Water.” So, after I completed my research, I thought that I could make the information I gathered from the sources into a short story. 

Q: Why did you decide to make the protagonist of your story a bottle cap?

A: The protagonist of the story is a plastic lid from a mineral water bottle. I chose it because I wanted to illustrate how plastic pollution affects the environment. Even a small plastic lid can have a great impact despite its small size. The idea came to me while I was walking down the road next to the Oxford Gardens compound. I remember that I had learned about microplastic. That day I saw a plastic lid on the sidewalk, then I wondered how that cap would affect the environment and what could be its past and future story. All these pieces came together in my mind as a puzzle that was going to be illustrated in this short story. 

Q: Why did you decide to create a podcast and what was that experience like?

A: This year, in our Humanities and English class, we have extended our learning about the UN SDGs. Ms. Gagliardi introduced to us a project called “Podcasting For A Change.” One of our Summative Assessment tasks was to choose an SDG and to complete extended research culminating with a podcast. 

I chose SDG 12, Target 12.5: ”The management of the municipal solid waste.” But while I was researching, I realized that it can be connected with SDG 14, so I had the idea to use the story written last year in a creative way. I was extremely lucky that Ms. Thomas, our Drama teacher, accepted to be a guest in my podcast to read a fragment of the story of Mr. D and its adventures. This podcast was intended to have an audience formed by the PYP students because change starts with the young generation. 

Q: What is the main message of your podcast?

A: Romanians think that pollution will have a huge impact on this generation, but also on the next generations. Indeed, we are worried about the waste we see, the polluted air we breathe, the pollution-related illnesses we have, and a high rate of deaths. But are we worried about the consequences of our daily actions? Maybe we should look at our actions. We would see that all the millions of tons of waste come from millions of inhabitants who dispose of it carelessly because they have never developed a mindset for environmental protection. 

Q: What is waste management like in Romania? 

A: The Sustainable Development Report shows that the management of municipal solid waste is moderately improving. There is an orange indicator and this means that significant challenges remain. Romania has yet to meet the SDG requirements, but there is no information about the trend. However, the European Review from 2019 points out that in Romania, the waste is simply disposed of at the landfills and there is little progress in recycling. What does “little progress” represent? The evidence tells that in Romania only 5% of the municipal waste is recycled. For example, Bucharest is served by three landfills: Iridex, Glina, and Vidra, but these landfills don’t have a system of recycling and selection of waste. The objective for 2020 was to achieve a share of 50% for recycling. The goal is clearly very far from being achieved.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to help the environment?

A: Only if we educate ourselves and others to have a mindset for environmental protection, we will be able to shape a prosperous and equitable world. If each one of us takes the time to think before every decision we make about the waste we want to dispose of, we become part of the solution for the municipal waste management in the place we live in. Even a small action like recycling the plastic cap of your water bottle could make a big difference in the future. Don’t forget: “The Future Is Ours”!

Q: What advice would you give to students who want to help the environment? What actions could they take?

A: Let’s raise awareness in every community we belong to. Read the story of Mr. D with your family and friends. If every child learns now that “our world” means that we all share it and that our lives are connected, then the future adult will be a responsible person who shows respect for nature and cares about its resources.  

Convince your family to download and use the SIGUREC APP. It is an intelligent service for waste recycling. Start recycling your own waste so that it doesn’t end up in the three illegal and dysfunctional landfills of Bucharest. SIGUREC addresses both the cause and limits the consequences. Let’s start using it today!

Be sure to read Nicole’s story “The Future Is Ours” and listen to her podcast “Podcasting For A Change.”