Press Release

Registration Opens for ‘Unplastify Worldwide’ Program

Teachers are now able to register their classrooms for Unplastify Worldwide – a free educational program led by National Geographic Explorer Tati Besada to empower students aged 15-16 to fight plastic pollution while becoming changemakers in their communities.

Photograph by PHOTOGRAPH BY SOFIA LOPEZ MAÑAN/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Unplastify Worldwide, a student-led program that empowers teenagers to design their own strategies to combat the problem of plastic pollution, officially opens registration for English-speaking students this summer. With an initial goal to reach 25 countries in just three years, the launch of the English version of the program in 2023 catapulted to more than 65 schools from 23 countries in its very first cohort. Teachers are encouraged to be part of the growing Unplastify movement by registering for the upcoming program season by September 4th.

“Unplastify,” a term coined by National Geographic Explorer and Founder of Unplastify Worldwide, Agustina “Tati'' Besada, is a progressive action to minimize the use of disposable plastics systemically by changing norms and behaviors – the root causes of pollution. Participating classrooms are led by their educators with support from the Unplastify team in a three-month long project where student teams learn hands-on by designing strategies for real world solutions to plastic pollution in their communities.

Unplastify Worldwide is on a mission to do just that by focusing on accelerating solutions to systemically minimize the use of single-use plastic. The program works with students aged 15-16 using project-based learning to turn young people into the protagonists of their learning. By empowering young people to design and implement their own solutions, Unplastify Worldwide seeks to help develop the next generation of community change makers at the local and global level.

Over the next two years, that impact is set to multiply as Unplastify Worldwide continues to expand into six global regions from its home base in Latin America outward to North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The National Geographic Society supported program aims to engage more than 250 new educators directly to build awareness and develop solutions to the impact of plastics in our ocean; ultimately seeking to reduce plastic use by three tons in Unplastify project areas.

The Solution is Prevention

Plastic waste is a growing problem globally that continues to pile up. Low estimates suggest around 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year accounting for 80 percent of all marine pollution. More alarmingly, plastic takes as many as 1,000 years to begin the degradation process, meaning nearly all plastic that humanity has ever made is still on the planet and in our waterways. But Unplastify doesn’t believe plastic itself is the enemy.

"We believe that the problem is not the material, it is its use and abuse,” says National Geographic Explorer and Unplasitfy Worldwide Founder, Tati Besada. “We believe that we can’t rely only on recycling and that systemic prevention is the key. We believe we need to unplastify the world by changing the human relationship with plastic."

Classroom to Community

The Unplastify Worldwide program reaches schools internationally by working directly with local partners to integrate with in-country teacher networks. One standout classroom project in the very first English program showcased a team of students in Ukraine who are working to target disposable containers by suggesting a shift to wax napkin covers with a goal to ultimately take on a more sustainable approach to food preservation in their community.

“I believe the Unplastify challenge is the best thing that could have happened to my students,” said Iryna Kharchenko, teacher at Taras Shevchenko Lyceum in Ukraine. “It's not just a project, it's more like a transformative journey that helps young people not only to break free from plastic, but also makes them real game-changers, capable of creating a sustainable future.”

Unplastify Worldwide will network with teachers around the world over the next two years to provide free Spanish and English versions of the program to schools internationally. Students who participate will have the option to attend the Unplastify Festival, either in-person or virtually, in Miami, Florida this November to present their solutions and interact with other like-minded students from around the world.

Teachers and school administrators interested in participating in the Unplastify Worldwide program in English have the opportunity to register their classrooms for the challenge until September 4th, 2024.

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