Twelve-year-old Arlian Ecker is on a one-boy mission to make recycling cool as his superhero identity Plastic-Free Boy.
Each time you are at the checkout, Alian wants Plastic-Free Boy to be at the forefront of your mind to remind you that you do not need that single-use plastic bag.
Arlian is clear about what he stands for when he dons his superhero t-shirt, standing outside supermarkets explaining to adults what happens to the bag they are holding and how it can end up in a turtle’s stomach.
The inspiration for his efforts came on his birthday last year when he witnessed three rehabilitated turtles being released back to the ocean.
He asked his mother why they were not in the ocean already and they visited the “hospital” at the Australian Seabird Rescue centre in northern New South Wales.
“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 said.
“We decided to make a film about the turtles. But then it turned into a story about plastic because the sea turtles weren’t in the ocean because they got hurt by plastic.”
It is that film, Plastic Alarm, which is now Plastic-Free Boy’s latest weapon in his own personal war on waste.
He wants to reach out to other children, taking his film to schools in his area and presenting it at school assemblies.
“You know what’s in schools? Kids! And the kids are the future of Planet Earth,” he said.
“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.”
But it is not always smooth sailing for the young superhero.
He has been bullied for trying to save the planet.
“Sometimes kids just don’t feel happy and they tease me about it, or they might say I am not telling the truth,” Arlian said.
“It just takes a while for some kids to know that is what’s happening on Earth and they can help. They don’t just have to be scared about it.”
Keith Williams from Australian Seabird Rescue said it takes courage to take on such a big issue.
“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,” he said.
“What’s really impressive is Arlian’s commitment and you see that when you talk with him and you meet him and you understand he’s really focussed on this.”
Arlian’s talk at the Byron Community Primary School was a confidence boost, and the film was well received.
“I think it’s really bad that we are throwing rubbish into the ocean because it can actually harm a lot of animals,” said 7-year-old Coco.
“I think it’s actually really sad that the little baby turtle died just because of plastic. We shouldn’t do that.”
“We should ask if the fish have plastic in them before we eat them,” said 7-year-old Mason.
For 10-year-old Mia, the problem was closer to home.
“I thought it was sad about how many coffee cups get thrown away. My mum and dad drink a lot of coffee and stuff and they throw away the coffee cups,” she said.