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The 9-year-old activist leading a campaign against plastic waste

At just 9 years of age, a British girl is spearheading a campaign to stop unsorted plastic waste being dumped in developing countries.

A new year may have just begun, but it’s safe to say we’ve already got a contender for most inspiring story of 2021.

If you were to ask, a self-proclaimed activist will usually be able to draw on the exact moment they decided to take a stand for change. Well, for 9-year old Lizzie, a bright primary school pupil and aspiring Marine Biologist, that realisation dawned after reading a newspaper story with her mother about the dangers of plastic pollution.

Specifically, the story revealed that the UK continues to send tons of unsorted plastic waste to low and middle income countries, such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey, despite government manifestos and EU bans against the practice.

As an avid recycler in her household, Lizzie was devastated to hear that more than 7000 tons of plastic was divvied out to developing nations by the UK in a single month of 2020 – following our exit from the EU. Often ‘unsorted and dirty’ large parts of these shipments aren’t recycled or reused, and instead are destined to be dumped in the ocean or burned.

As a UK citizen, it’s a bleak and vexing reality to live in a country responsible for second largest export of plastic waste, but if the government was lacking in inspiration to address the issue, the attention Lizzie is now receiving may just do the trick. We could very well be looking at the next Greta Thunberg here.

Taking it upon her small shoulders to carry the fight for change, Lizzie went online and started a petition on titled ‘Stop the UK from exporting its plastic waste,’ and addressed the page to Boris Johnson.

‘I would like to help the planet and save the beautiful fish, plants, and wildlife. It makes me feel extremely sad that plastic ends up in the ocean and causes so much harm,’ she writes. ‘If parliament realises people are thinking passionately about plastic not being exported then Boris Johnson might ban it quicker.’

Stealing the hearts of the nation, Lizzie has amassed close to 90,000 signatures in less than a week and is now planning on writing a letter to her local East Devon MP, Simon Jupp. The Conservative Party had made a pledge to ban the export of plastic in 2019, and the burgeoning activist wants to know they mean to honour it sooner rather than later.

When it comes to citizenry action driving government reform, 2021 promises to be a great year already. In the last week alone, we’ve written about a historic case in Paris where activists are seeking to convict the French state for a lack of climate action, and have also discussed the 10-point ‘Action Plan’ of NGOs being presented to the EU to safeguard marine biodiversity.

This story is a completely different kettle of fish, however. From a year 4 classroom to the head of government, it’s safe to say that Lizzie’s inspiring journey has only just begun.