5 Tips to Make Your School Plastic Conscious

Did you know it’s Plastic Free July? This is a global campaign which allows millions of us to contribute to eradicating plastic pollution. The adverse effect plastic has on the world we live in is devastating and well-documented. Who does not want a cleaner world? The first step is refusing single-use plastics; a small and simple change with the potential to provoke hugely positive change. 

The amazing Plastic Free July website is packed full of ideas and resources to support us all in reducing single-use plastic in the home, workplace and schools. Tips and tricks mentioned on the website include not using plastic bags when purchasing fruit and vegetables, refusing plastic straws (something which a lot of businesses are already tackling with increased use of alternative straws, such as paper and metal!) and ensuring the 3R’s are implemented in everyday life! 

For schools, it is important to introduce awareness of plastic consumption at a young age. Even pupils as young as EYFS can take part in activities that raise awareness of the impact plastic can have on our beautiful planet. 

Number 1: Waste Audit

Conduct an audit of the amount of plastic, particularly single-use plastics, your school consumes. This is an ideal activity for older pupils and is a great opportunity to practice data collection and data representation. The audit should be conducted on a typical school day to get representative and true results. Ask the school’s caretakers and cleaners to save one days waste for the purpose of the audit; this could be taken from specific areas, such as the bins in the lunch hall. 

The best way to show the scale of waste is first-hand experience. You guessed it, the children will be sorting through the collected waste! Of course there are multiple health and safety points to consider, such as wearing gloves when handling the rubbish and knowing to tell an adult if they find something sharp or potentially harmful. A risk assessment is certainly wise prior to the waste audit. The class should be divided into groups. Each group will need a sheet to place the rubbish on, plenty of gloves and some to spare, a pencil and piece of paper for recording, and empty boxes or waste bags for categorising the rubbish. The pupils will then need to categorise the waste collected by material. It would be helpful to have discussion points such as “Is this recyclable?” or “Could the use of this material have been avoided?”. The children should also have the opportunity to weigh the boxes/bags to see how much waste has been accumulated. Once the sorting is completed, the waste should be disposed of appropriately or repurposed. 

Once the sortation element of the audit is completed it is important to calculate amounts in order to show the real scale of waste produced in school. This is a fantastic opportunity to practice key mathematical skills. For example, to find out how much waste on average is produced weekly multiply the weight of the waste by 5 or for the annual amount, multiple the weight by the number of weeks in the school year. Data interpretation can also be practiced by asking questions such as “What percentage of the waste collected was plastic?” and “What are the most common rubbish types in the collected sample?”

Number 2: A Pupil-Led School Waste Reduction Plan

The findings of the audit should be shared with the entire school community. Give school councils the opportunity to come up with a plan for reducing waste moving forwards which can then be shared in assemblies and school newsletters. Newsletters are vital here as parents/guardians can contribute to waste reduction with the items they use in packed lunchboxes, for example. 

Number 3: School-Led Changes 

There are several ways you can create a culture of environmental responsibility and awareness; some of which can be influenced by waste audits and waste reduction plans. Ways to change the culture include requesting plastic-free deliveries from suppliers, not using laminators, and not allowing single-use plastic drinks bottles; pupils should use a reusable and long-lasting drinks bottle. School staff should also review their workplace procurement strategy to include plastic-free guidelines.

Number 4: Holding Themed Days and Taking Part in Events 

Why not recycle existing waste, such as old plastic bottles, before introducing new eco-friendly measures? For example, milk bottles can be used to make adorable elephants, crisp packets could be combined to make an impressive sculpture and bottle caps can be used in a collage/mural. 

Number 5: Celebrate Environmental Responsibility In and Out the Classroom

Encourage and celebrate extra-curricular activities which have a positive effect on the environment. For example, organising litter picks or giving attention to external litter picks attended by pupils is a simple and effective way to encourage environmental responsibility. For your summer fete, insist everything is single-use plastic free! Acknowledge world events and initiatives, such as David Attenborough’s Plastic Oceans as well as celebrating businesses and individuals supporting the cause, such as Kent’s very own Contain Yourself Refill Shop in Tunbridge Wells

Whatever you do, big or small, be part of Plastic-Free July and beyond! It is a collective worldwide responsibility to protect and repair the planet. If you are feeling inspired to take part in Plastic-Free July by reducing your waste consumption, our blog Contain Yourself: Kent Refill Store Paving the Way for a Less Wasteful Life is the perfect next read!

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