Schools have been challenged to eliminate their use of single-use plastics by 2022. EdExec looks at some of the great work carried out by staff and pupils at Georgeham Primary School, in Devon, which led it to become the UK’s first school with plastic-free status
At the end of last year the education secretary, Damian Hinds, called on all schools to go single-use plastic-free by 2022 – by ditching items such as plastic bags, straws, bottles and food packaging in favour of sustainable alternatives. He also encouraged schools to help children learn more about the effects discarded plastics have on the environment and wildlife.
In his announcement, on 27 December 2018, Hinds urged schools to follow the lead of Georgeham CofE Primary School, in Devon, which – in March 2018 – became the first school in the UK to achieve single-use plastic-free status. Awarded by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), a national marine conservation and campaigning charity, schools must complete five objectives before receiving plastic-free status.
“Plastic can harm our precious environment and be lethal to wildlife. The leadership shown by schools like Georgeham Primary in going single-use plastic-free is an impressive example for us all – and I want work to support every school in the country in following their lead by 2022,” Hinds said.
“It’s not always easy but we all have a role to play in driving out avoidable plastic waste and, with more schools joining others and leading by example, we can help to leave our planet in a better state than we found it.”
Follow the leader
Georgeham Primary’s journey to plastic-free status included efforts from school staff, pupils and parents. In addition to organising beach cleans, making contact with local councillors and MPs and spreading the school’s message far and wide through press coverage and radio interviews – the school shunned single-use plastic across the premises. Soap dispensers in the bathrooms were swapped for soap bars, for example, and eco-glitter is used in place of standard plastic products.
A lot of the work took place in the school’s kitchen. Headteacher Julian Thomas praises the school’s catering manager, Keri Lambert, for playing a key role in reducing the use of plastic. Single-serve foodstuffs in pots – such as yogurt, ice cream and fruit – have been replaced with larger tubs. The containers are then repurposed around the school as classroom storage, for use during craft activities or to hold other food items. Keri also spoke to the school’s wholesalers, producers and suppliers to request items to be sent, unwrapped, in boxes, and the likes of milk cartons, cling film and sauce sachets have all been replaced with alternatives.
“All our pupils enthusiastically played their part in helping the school reduce excessive single-use plastic consumption,” says Julian. “I am confident children across the rest of the country would also welcome the challenge.
“By making relatively minor changes, such as replacing cling film for foil in the canteen, we were able to significantly reduce our plastic use in the school. We’re a small school, but we think big, and I’m very proud of everyone at Georgeham for what we’ve achieved.”
This article featured in the June/July issue of Education Executive. Subscribe now to keep up-to-date with the latest in school business management and leadership.