How to reduce plastic in schools

Reducing single-use plastic in schools

The government made two major announcements yesterday, one that the cost of plastic shopping bags will increase from 5p to 10p per bag in January 2020. And two, that schools are encouraged to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022.

Single-use plastics are, as you may have guessed by the name, disposable plastics often used only once for things such as packaging. They are then thrown away or recycled. The challenge for schools, however, is how do they eliminate single-use plastics when there are so many contributory factors which make it difficult to avoid? For example, school suppliers using disposable plastic packaging when delivering goods, or parents using sandwich bags to wrap packed lunches? In this blog, The Classroom Partnership looks at several ways schools can reduce and potentially eliminate single-use plastics.

Providing guidance to parents

One of the main causes of plastics in schools comes from packed lunches. It’s very difficult when everything seems to come packaged in little snack bags like granola bars – they’re all covered in plastic. By working with parents and children to create a green school lunch campaign you can help reduce waste. One element of it could be to encourage parents to make their own healthy snacks, rather than shop bought, plastic wrapped ones.

Reducing single use plastic in schools

Additionally, stainless steel lunch boxes and reusable drinks bottles are an excellent way of reducing plastic waste. They can be reused throughout the year.

Having a campaign such as this could run from the beginning of the year with guidance notes being provided to parents on what material is suitable for packed lunches.

Start a green tuck shop

Although this may not be possible for every school, having a tuck shop which prepares its own snacks and drinks would help reduce waste. Instead of a vending machine full of wrapped up snacks, a tuckshop providing fresh, healthy and plastic free produce would go down a storm. Everything from cereal bars to freshly squeezed orange juice served in reusable containers would go a long way in reducing single-use plastic waste.

Are straws taking the absolute milk?

Taking a good hard look at where the majority of plastic is coming from in your school can make you realise something you never have before. One school in Devon did just that. The milk they received from their supplier for their reception class had plastic straws attached to them. Over the course of a single week, they were throwing away 100 straws.

After a quick conversation with their milk supplier, they now have 4 pints of milk delivered in recyclable containers with any leftover milk being used for cooking in the kitchen. They eliminated nearly 4,000 straws over the course of the year.

Perhaps in your school, you’re still providing children with individually wrapped desserts at lunchtime. By working with your supplier you may find better alternatives than that, similar to Georgeham Primary School in Devon.

Educate the children about plastic waste

The last few years have seen many documentaries about plastic waste. David Attenborough narrating Blue Planet II illustrated the scale of the issue. By engaging pupils about the harmful impacts plastic is having on the planet, they can make a change by making the right decisions and encouraging their parents to do the same.

Hold a plastic-free awareness day where you show Blue Planet II to the children. Set up a trash mob which goes out and assesses how much plastic is littered around the playground – they can then report back in an assembly. Show this TED talk by one of their peers about eliminating plastic straws.

Overall, there are many things that can be done to reduce single-use plastics in schools. However, it’s not going to be easy. The first step will be to identify where it’s coming from and implementing those changes accordingly.