Busan, Korea – 27.2.2017- Wearing red gardeners gloves, seventeen foreign and Korean staff and students from Busan International Foreign School (BIFS) cleaned up the beach, sidewalks and traffic median of the Songjeong River mouth, as part of a newly-forged connection with the Haeundae Gu Volunteer Center. On February 26, 2017, from 10:00am to 12:00pm, BIFS students and teachers combed the area for hazardous litter and placed the material in bags that they had brought with them for this purpose. The city is responsible for removing the bags.

The most prevalent street litter in Songjeong is cigarette butts, which are non-biodegradable and extremely toxic to marine life, an important Korean food source. According to New Scientist magazine, four trillion cigarette butts are discarded annually, worldwide. They are the most common form of beach litter in the world. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, the largest component in sunglasses. Koreans who throw cigarette butts on the ground are not just littering and poisoning the environment, but throwing away a valuable, recyclable commodity.

Other countries have attempted to educate people about the danger of cigarette butts and change behaviour. Central London, for example, has funded giant cigarette butt sculptures that have helped reduce littering overall by 26%. In Paris, the city government has installed litter bins, handed out portable ashtrays, and imposes large fines on people caught dropping cigarette butts. The public trash problem has been solved in Singapore with public bins, CCTV camera and heavy fines for offenders.

Service to the community is part of the BIFS education. Says BIFS science teacher Gillian Vaughan, “If you don’t educate the kids about litter they won’t take care of the planet.”

BIFS is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum School. “Service Learning,” connecting teaching in the classroom with action in the community, is integral to the IB’s vision of teaching peace through global citizenship and environmental stewardship. In addition to a rigorous academic education, participation in service projects is a requirement of the IB diploma, coveted for its status as a gateway to the Ivy League and prestigious universities around the world.