Pupils Asked How We Protect Environment From Plastic Waste

The ideas of Britain’s schoolchildren are being sought as part of a project looking at ways to end our reliance on single-use plastics in order to protect the environment from the damage they cause.

Environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and BRITA UK are launching a joint inquiry into the issue of disposable water bottles and other single-use plastic packaging.

The project, which is being run through KBT’s Eco-Schools programme, will ask three cohorts of children what innovative steps they think they and others can take to cut down on single-use plastics.

Last month the Government launched its 25-year Environment Plan, pledging the elimination of avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

The Government is also set to consult on measures such as placing a tax on single-use plastics, but KBT and BRITA UK are seeking other, simpler suggestions to tackle this vital issue and want to give the next generation a central voice in the discussion.

The project, which is being run at schools in Hampshire and London, will ask pupils to keep a “plastics diary” for two weeks, in order to understand how much disposable plastic they and their families are using, from water bottles to straws or packaged fruit.

Pupils will then be asked to come up with interventions that could help address this, in a unique “co-design” model being tried for the first time by KBT. The workshop will include sessions on why plastics are used and their impacts, with films, quizzes and games used to support the discussion.

Pupils will then be asked to keep another fortnight-long diary, this time while putting into practice the different suggestions for reduction. A second workshop will then take place to look at what worked and why.

Push For Change

More than a fifth of 4-to 18-year-olds mainly drink water from single-use plastic bottles, with only a limited number being recycled, damaging the marine environment and blighting our streets.

Research, conducted by KBT and BRITA UK, last year found that “inadequate” drinking water facilities in some schools mean many pupils rely on disposable bottles.

The YouGov survey found that nearly half (49%) of pupils generally drink bottled water or less healthy drinks, rather than using the school’s water facilities. However, many schools are also doing their bit to help, with 61% encouraging pupils to bring reusable water bottles to school.

“We know that if children push for change it can have a knock-on effect on their families too, so it will be fascinating to explore what solutions the pupils taking part come up with.”

Research has found that up to 13m tonnes of plastic leak into our seas every year thanks in part to litter from single-use bottles, up to 90% of it originating as litter dropped in our towns and cities.

This equates to more than the combined weight of every single living blue whale, and equal to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every single foot of the world’s coastline. This is set to double to 10 bags by 2025.

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, commented: “I’m very pleased to be working with BRITA UK on this important piece of research, and educating Britain’s schoolchildren on why single-use plastic waste is such a problem for the environment.

“As the UK moves towards ending our reliance on single-use plastics, it is vital that the views of the next generation are considered – especially as it is their future planet we need to look after.

“We know that if children push for change it can have a knock-on effect on their families too, so it will be fascinating to explore what solutions the pupils taking part come up with.”

Sarah Taylor, managing director of BRITA UK, said: “There is now widespread recognition that we need to do more to end our reliance on single-use plastics such as disposable bottles.

“Despite this, it’s clear there is much more to do to encourage people to change their habits and swap to things like refillable bottles. It’s important we listen to the next generation to learn from them what they think should happen – I can’t wait to hear what they come up with.”

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