Pupils at Lambeth’s Saint Gabriel’s College have joined a major new campaign to cut the consumption of single-use plastic in UK schools.
Saint Gabriel’s College is one of 12 across the country ranging from as far as Scotland to the south coast sharing ideas on how to reduce consumption of single-use plastic.
At Saint Gabriel’s the Plastic Pioneers campaign, led by environmental charity Hubbub and sponsored by retailers TK Maxx and Homesense, has put sustainability at the top of the school’s agenda.
Hazel Millar, head of key Stage 3 science and Plastic Pioneers coordinator at Saint Gabriel’s College, said: “The crucial thing about this campaign is that it is student-led.
“It has shown my students that they have a voice. Their ideas on how to reduce single-use plastic have been taken up by the whole of the school with huge enthusiasm.”
Pupils form a Plastic Pioneers committee and audit their school’s consumption of single-use plastic. They then advise on – and experiment with – ways to reduce single-use plastic.
Plastic Pioneers badges are worn by committee members to encourage their classmates to think carefully about their consumption of single-use plastic.
“Miss Millar has always been passionate about science and the environment and I want to show her that we too can be passionate!” said Saina Sarr, head girl in year 11.
On average in the UK over 34kg of plastic packaging is thrown away every year – nearly the weight of 5,000 pencils. Much of this cannot be recycled and ends up in landfill, floating around in our rivers and oceans.
In December, the government urged schools to stop using single-use plastic items such as bags, straws, bottles and plastic food packaging by 2022.
“Lambeth Council needs to take action and lead our boroughs in how to reduce our single-use plastics. Maybe if they see students taking a stand, they will too,” said Lucy Webb in year 10.
Miss Millar continued: “This door has since blown off, never to be shut again! Our students have been given a platform to raise their ideas and see how they can make an immediate change to the very area they grow up in.”
Plastic Pioneers sponsors TK Maxx and Homesense have removed the nine of the biggest contributors to ocean waste plastic from their stores and offices, from plastic straws to plastic bottles.
Natalie Bayliss, creative partner at Hubbub, said each school involved in the campaign has been coming up with different, innovative ways to cut down on single-use plastic.
She said: “Single-use plastic is everywhere, and our schools are no exception. It’s so ubiquitous and it’s having an extremely damaging impact on our wildlife and environment.”
More than eight in ten of us are actively trying to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away, as a YouGov survey in April showed just under half of us – 46% – feel guilty about the amount of plastic we use.
Natalie continued: “Pupils up and down the country have devised some brilliant ideas – from cutting out plastic in canteens to experimenting with plastic prizes at school events.
“This campaign helps empower young people to challenge single-use plastic and to come up with alternatives.”
In 2020, all the schools involved in the Plastic Pioneers campaign will report back on the single initiative that has made the biggest difference to cutting the consumption of single-use plastic in their school.