Saturday 12 October 2019

Schools Single Use Plastics

How our Schools are Tackling Plastics
Plastics are all around us - synthetic clothes including polyester fleeces; polymer based UK bank notes; packaging from crisp packets to cat food pouches and straws. Some types of wrapping paper have plastic in them too (the type that springs back when you scrunch it).

Tetrapak drink cartons are made of card, aluminium and plastics, and chewing gum as well as glitter can also be a problem with hidden plastics within.

Many of these aren’t even recyclable, although Terracycle has a useful tool, to help you locate where you can send or drop off non recyclables, such as toothpaste tubes, pringle tubs and more.

Some places take crisp packets to help raise funds for charity, for example the Air Ambulance service in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. 
Wiltshire Air Ambulance & Scottish Air Ambulance service also have recycling schemes too, so check out your local Air Ambulance site. Other areas may have something similar and will help them make money in the process.

It’s an everyday struggle to reduce our plastic consumption, but for the health of the planet we really do need to make some changes and soon. Plastics lead to waste, and waste can be damaging to wildlife and nature, oceans and waterways and ultimately ourselves.

So what happens to all the plastics that do get recycled? 

The plastics are melted down first. Some items can be turned into clothing for instance recycled bottles can be turned into a fleece jacket or recycled plastics can be turned into new bottles. Different plastics can have different lives once they are recycled and may depend on the coded symbol at the bottom of the packet.

Recycled plastics can be turned into many other things including outdoor play areas, gardening equipment, seating and disabled access furniture. Recycled Furniture UK has a menu of different products being made out of recycled plastics, including this colourful buddy seat (a seat where children can sit and chat with others, reaching out to children who could be feeling alone).

How about the Government?

Following an open consultation, the government has announced a ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds which will come into force in April 2020. (Those with medical needs or a disability though are exempted from the ban).

The government plans to introduce a new tax on plastic packaging, which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content, from April 2022 (subject to consultation). They are also proposing to start a new deposit return scheme for drinks containers, to help boost recycling materials and reduce littering too.

The Ministry of Justice (PDF) have confirmed their intention to ‘Meet the government-wide ban to eliminate consumer single-use plastic from our central office estate by 2020.’ This will cover reduction or elimination of single use plastics for their cleaning, office and catering supplies.

Some of Britain’s councils are aiming for a 2022 target, with the Council of Bury purporting to be the first to make positive changes. They propose to create plastic-free community spaces in parks, libraries, community and leisure centres. (Check your local council as they may have similar proposals to reduce plastic consumption in your area).

It's great to see the NHS making changes to reduce plastics in hospitals in the UK, including phasing out plastic straws, plastic cutlery and single use cups. Royal Estates are also making the pledge to reduce their plastic use.

Time for Change Neon Sign

How about Schools?

Did you know that the government have challenged schools to be plastic free by 2022?

Georgeham Primary school in Devon was one of the 1st schools to take the plastic free pledge. Marine conservation charity 'Surfers against Sewage' found the school had met 5 crucial targets, including an initial plastic audit of the school and removal of at least 3 items of single-use plastic.

Changes included ditching small milk cartons with plastic straws and plastic overwraps and replacing with much larger recyclable milk containers and use of washable beakers instead. Cling film was swapped for foil in the school canteen, and sauce sachets replaced by larger sauce bottles.

Christ’s Hospital school in West Sussex, have been working hard to promote environmental awareness. Eco-minded students have set up a ‘Refill Centre Shop’ which is open to the public at Bluecoat Sports every Tuesday between 4-5pm. Refills sold by weight (which can be placed in your own containers or use theirs) include Faith in Nature and Ecover products. What a brilliant idea!

In addition, the school provides re-usable hot/cold drinking bottles, to help students reduce their single use waste.

My old school friend who works in an International School in Bahrain, says her school has also been making a difference. 

Our school has lots of recycling bins. We no longer provide paper cups at the water dispensers and our caterers minimise their plastic usage. Meeting sustainability targets is part of our school development plans. Our Eco club does regular beach cleans too.

Here’s a story that will touch your heart. 

Teacher Amy Fegan-Shakespeare, who works at a small independent school in Stoke-on Trent sent this lovely message:

‘I introduced recycling to the school I teach and work at. In September (2019), I spoke to my students about climate change, recycling and the war against plastic. They told me, “well the planets ruined anyway”.

'A recycling centre was created in the kitchen and we are ordering recycling sorters for each classroom, each with simple easy signs (created by the students). There are new positions for each student to do their bit and become a green ambassador for the school.

‘Today in art the students created posters around reduce, repurpose and recycle to place around the school. The beautiful moment was when I played David Attenborough’s speech on plastic, to the sounds of them saying “oh that guy is a legend”.

‘It soon tumbled into videos they had seen of marine life that had ingested plastic with a response of shock and horror. All of a sudden they understood how and why. 30 minutes later the students were mapping out how they could reduce plastic on the white board. 

'It was so lovely to see them inspired and looking for the next thing we could do as a school to do our bit for the planet.’ 

In an update Amy tells me.

‘We have managed to reduce our black bag waste from 15+ bags a week to 3 for the whole school- and we are still going. We are also planning a trip to the seaside for the students to take part in a beach clean up. Their responses have been amazing particularly around ideas to repurpose waste such as saving our toilet roll tubes and making eco friendly crackers for our school Christmas meal.’

What a wonderful thing to see that children can enjoy coming together and hopefully this post will show them that adults are trying to make a difference too. Well done to each and everyone who are running eco clubs or getting involved in recycling and beach clean ups too. 

The planet gives you a big thumbs up! 👍👍

How are Supermarkets doing?

Supermarkets have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact to reduce or eliminate the sale of some single use items, including cotton buds and straws. Much more is being done but advancements can differ between supermarkets. Details of the some of the changes being made can be found in my recent blog post ‘Supermarket Sweep’.

Shoppers are also seeking zero waste (plastic free stores) for their shopping needs. The beeswax wrap company offer a useful map on how to find some of your local plastic free stores.

Finally, what alternatives can I buy? 

Eco friendly biodegradable glitter, plastic free chewing gum , non plastic lunch boxes, re-usable drink bottles are just some examples to try. 

You can also look out for bamboo plates and dishes for toddlers.

Green companies are popping up more regularly including this nappy recycling service in Wales. The 1st nappy recycling service launched in 2012 was unveiled by a council based in Cheshire. Another company recycles nappies collected from nurseries and childcare facilities in the UK.

Collectively more is being done Nationwide and although challenging we can collectively (and individually) make a difference. To help feel better about how advances are being made, check out our recent post ‘LovelierPlanet News’.

❤ Together we can turn our 'plastic planet' back into a blue or green one, for us all to enjoy! 

👍If you're a teacher, pupil or parent check out some useful links below

The Word Like in Scrabble Tiles

Useful links for schools: