David McCann Wed 17 Apr 2019
Mrs Owens,Eco Coordinator from St Michael’s Primary School writes for The Last Straw about how her school achieved a massive reduction in Single Use Plastics
Our Eco-Committee at St Michael’s Primary School decided to tackle the amount and types of waste that were gathering in the school after carrying out an Environmental Review back in September 2017. One key area was of course plastics and we’ve made some big efforts to reduce our use as a school over the past year. To make sure we could recycle plastic properly we contacted Belfast City Council who gave us lots of helpful advice. Each classroom received a large bin for recycling plastics and pupils and teachers were asked to recycle everything they could.
In January 2018 the pupils on the Eco-Committee talked about the problem caused by plastic straws being used with the milk cartons every day in class. The office provided figures for the number of cartons of milk being consumed in each class and the figures were worked out for the whole school (each child using one plastic straw per carton of milk):
266 cartons per day x 5 days = 1330 per week = 5320 per month
A lot of plastic straws!!
Some research was carried out and compostable straws were sourced online and the school purchased thousands of them to stock up for the rest of the year. Since January 2018 NO plastic straws have been used in school. This reduced our plastic waste going to landfill! Also, one of our P5 Eco councillors suggested that as the straws we ordered were full size straws and our milk cartons are kiddy sized, we should cut the straws in half and get double the value. The whole school has taken this idea on board and it’s saving us more money….well done Ellie McDermott!”
Our caretaker also reported that banning plastic straws saved on plumber’s bills for clearing pipes under sinks blocked by plastic straws that had slipped down the plug hole!
What we did next...
Next… we tackled the lost property box. The plastic in our clothes can also lead to plastic microfibers getting into our oceans, so we need to think about the amount of clothes we buy and what we do with them once we’re finished with them. We had a very large lost property box of good quality school uniforms, which we didn’t want going to waste, better to reuse than throw out or buy new! The School Councillors got involved at this stage and sorted all of the clothing into items with names that could be returned to their owners to prevent buying more and clothing that could be washed and reused. We decided to organise a ‘Pop-up’ recycled uniform shop and put out a request to parents for contributions of uniform that they no longer needed. The response was amazing! Parents not only contributed items but also purchased items from the shop. We would like this to become a regular feature on the school calendar.
To encourage the whole school community to get involved our Eco-Committee came up with the idea of organising an Eco-week in early April 2019. This involved lots of emails to various organisations and people drawing up a full time-table of events to ensure that everybody could take part in Eco Week. An email was sent to all parents to make sure they were aware of the activities and to encourage them to support their children. One of our plastic initiatives is encouraging all the children to come to school with as little packaging as possible in their lunch boxes and NO single-use plastic water bottles are permitted.
We are delighted the whole school community got involved and will continue to reduce our use of plastics in our school!