One School’s Journey to Cutting Single-Use Plastic

Six year-old pupils on a school Eco Team complained to their teacher about the waste generated by the free school milk programme so their teacher, Andrea Bootle, decided it was time they took action.

Binning the cartons

“Every Friday, our bins were overflowing with little milk cartons”, says Andrea, Eco Teacher at Crabtree Infants’ in Harpenden. “Each child could get five of them a week. Each carton had its own straw. And with 180 children in the Infants’ school, even if only half of them had milk ordered for them, the maths was staggering. 90 children, 5 cartons a week, 39 weeks a year….17,550 little cartons and straws to landfill a year.”

The Department of Health in the UK states that every child under the age of five in the UK is entitled to a free 189ml serving of milk whilst in attendance at a registered day care provider for two or more hours a day.  For many children at Crabtree Infants’ School, as at other schools, parents continue to pay for milk after the free entitlement has ended and the children very much enjoy their break-time drink.

“The children loved getting their milk but the waste upset them”, continues Andrea. “We looked at options for recycling the cartons, but since many still contained liquid, we couldn’t see a sensible way to deal with the waste. Adding to that all the plastic that the blocks were shrink-wrapped in and the waste was extraordinary. The Eco Team really felt it was time to act. During the Sustainability Festival, the children pledged to make change happen.”

With the help of their teacher, the Eco Team wrote to the school’s designated milk provider who offered them an alternative – a supply of re-usable plastic beakers and large containers of milk delivered to the school instead of individual cartons.

crabtree school milk 3

“Obviously, we were nervous at first.” explains Andrea. “Particularly with the new Reception children – we had visions of floods of milk all over the carpet if they were given open beakers. And the washing up was also a bit of a concern. However, all the staff have been amazing and supported the Eco Team’s changes with no objections and the children have coped with it well.”

crabtree school milk 2

Georgia Frost, Reception Teacher, agrees: “The children in Reception enjoy socialising at the snack table. They have gained independence by pouring their own milk, whilst being eco-friendly. It allows them to take some responsibility for the whole world around them; something we encourage in all aspects of school life.”

Stopping the flow of single use water bottles

Soon beakers of milk became the norm for the school and the bins are no longer overflowing. But the children did not rest there.  The Eco Team came up with another type of single-use plastic they wanted to stop: single-use water bottles for school trips.

“The children already brought in their own water bottles every day”, says Andrea. “Yet on school trips the school-provided packed lunch came with one and sometimes two disposable bottles of water. When it all arrived for our Year 1 and 2 trip to Southend the children were horrified by the stack of 240 throwaway plastic bottles of water just for one day.”

Again, by raising the issue with their provider and changing their school policy for trips, the children were able to make a big impact. Children now simply take their own reusable water bottles on school trips just like they do on an ordinary day.

The children were so right to challenge what we do”, concludes Andrea. “Their determination has saved thousands of cartons and straws from ending up in landfill and hundreds of unnecessary single-use water bottles. I’m extremely proud of them.”


Check with your school milk provider and caterer about their policies and how you can work together to cut single-use plastic. Crabtree Infants’ School receive their milk from Cool Milk and uses Herts Catering for their school meals.

crabtree school milk 1

 

 

After Hugh: Your #WarOnPlastic

Are you feeling outraged or depressed after watching #WarOnPlastic?  There are active steps you can take:


Catherine Ross from Sustainable St Albans is fired up – follow her tips to reduce the single use plastic in your life.


KITCHEN

* Open your fridge door and have a hard stare. What is unnecessary? Do you buy lots of small individually-wrapped things that you could swap for a larger one?

* Take your own string bags or small plastic bags to the supermarket to put loose fruit & veg in.

*if you drink dairy milk get it delivered in glass bottles see Find Me A Milkman  – ditch the plastic

Organic veg for sale at The Green Kitchen Vegan Cafe on Hatfield Road

* Take your own containers (plastic, glass, or bamboo) to the supermarket, and ask for cheese, fish and meat to be put in your containers.

* Or get your fresh produce from local suppliers who aim to reduce plastic like Box Local, Carpenter’s Nursery, Smallford Farm Shop and organic veg from The green kitchen Vegan cafe

* You can get all sorts of dried food and household products from The Refill Pantry off the London Road in central St Albans and Eat Wholefoods on Hatfield Rd (and regularly at the market). If you haven’t tried either yet, get over there, with your empty jars and cleaned out ice cream tubs in hand.

Get rid of the cling film – use bees wrap or vegan food wrap from The Refill Pantry or search online

BATHROOM

* The Refill Pantry, Eat Whole Foods, Lush St Albans, the Phase out Plastic stall in St Albans and online stores also sell deodorants, shampoo, soap etc plastic free.

* You can get toilet paper without plastic packaging from Who Gives A Crap – but it does have a long journey to get here…

* There is a wide choice of reusable period wear -period pants or reusable pads, e.g. from St Albans based award-winning business WUKA

LAUNDRY

* Make your clothes washing plastic-free with powder in a cardboard box (from your local supermarket or for example from Ecover UK) and refill your fabric conditioner at The Refill Pantry,  Eat Whole Foods or Ecover again.

OUT AND ABOUT

* You know this! Drink tap water not bottled. Carry your own water bottle and ask for refills. You can use the Refill app to see which businesses locally will let you fill up with tap water – Refill HQ , or just ask.

* Carry your own reusable coffee cup (don’t just buy it, actually carry it!) or sit down in a cafe and use crockery. (Sign up to Refill app on June 19th and get 5% off a Chilly water bottle)

* Make lunch at home and take it in a lunch box. You’ll save money, save plastic and probably eat better food.

* Did you know that Parker and Vine food and deli shop in Harpenden have made the brave decision to ban single use coffee cups – they even have a reusable bottle loan scheme for customers – but just take your own reusable cup!

BIGGER ACTIONS

We’re not going to shop ourselves out of the climate emergency, so far more important than any of the above, are the following three actions;

* Simply don’t buy stuff you don’t need.

* Write to/tell your councillor / MP that you care.  Ask them to act. For example, ask for more water fountains in St Albans (there are two new ones now, in town and Clarence Park). Ask exactly where your recycling goes. Ask your MP to support deposit return schemes and vote for legislation requiring the manufacturer to be responsible for their waste. Find your local councillor here

* Tell companies it’s NOT OK. If something arrives over-packaged, tweet about it. If you see something ludicrous at the supermarket, ask for the manager and let them know; especially if you see loose produce that costs more than the wrapped equivalent. If you go to a meeting with plastic-wrapped sandwiches, say you’d prefer something different next time. Generally, comment … do it nicely, but comment. Be a conscious consumer and use your voice.


See more ideas with Plastic Free St Albans here


  • Plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the world, from busy tourist beaches to uninhabited, tropical islands nowhere is safe.
  • Scientists have recently discovered microplastics embedded deep in the Arctic ice.
  • In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. This is set to double by 2034.
  • Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
  • There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.
  • Plastics consistently make up 60 to 90% of all marine debris studied.
  • Approx 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK.
  • Over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches.
  • Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.
  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually

Follow the Blue Dot trail

From May 11th ’til June 1st join in with Plastic Free St Albans Blue Dot Art Trail #SustFest19 event. Spot the dots and discover a variety of creative perspectives on the topic of single-use plastic through the lens of local artists.

• Over 30 incredible pieces of art created by local artists
• Covering a multitude of media from oil painting, photography to mixed media
• Being exhibited in many venues in and around St Albans incl Courtyard Cafe, Inn On the Park, St Albans Museum, Raft, The Refill Pantry, Headcase barbers, Fade to Black and many more…
• Can be experienced as a full trail or in separate visits, let’s see how many dots you can spot to protect our precious planet, the earth, our blue dot.
• Find the digital map @ https://plasticfreestalbans.org.uk/sustfest19-art-trail/

Don’t forget to share your thoughts and ideas about the trail and what we can do to reduce single-use plastic on our plastic free St Albans FB page, Instagram or twitter! Include #bluedotarttrail

ECOED Challenge and Green Living

We are ECOED LIFE and our mission is to make sustainable living accessible. We believe that no matter how small your actions may seem, they and you are making a big difference.


This week’s blog is from the ECOED LIFE team – why not join in the ECOED challenge for #SustFest19 – download the app before Thursday 9th May


Join the ECOED Challenge during SustFest in StAlbans!

ecoednewgame  With our quiz game app ECOED (that works on most mobile phones and tablets that have iOS or android), you can challenge your family and friends to find out who knows the most about sustainable living.

The game app also gives you tips on actions that you can take at home or in your workplace or school to make a positive difference; like how to create a rain garden, how to reduce food waste or reducing your use of single-use plastics.


Imagine that you decide to cycle to work rather than taking the car. That means one less car on the roads, reducing air pollution and emission of greenhouse gases. Now imagine that not just you decide to leave the car at home, but also your neighbour, your best friend and the new guy who just moved in at the end of the road – that is four cars off the road resulting in even better air quality and less emissions (which are a cause for bigger impact on us and our planet through climate change) – and less congestion. Extend that to their best friends, cousins, aunts…. and so on – you get the picture!


Step-by-step through small changes in your daily habits you can make a difference towards a healthier lifestyle, reduce your environmental footprint and be kinder to our planet and everyone upon it.

So – join the ECOED Challenge which takes place between 11 – 18 May. All you have to do ecoedfamilyis download the free ECOED game app (available on Google Play or App Store) AND start playing – by registering on this link: http://eepurl.com/gpTZ9z

Getting a question right or completing an action will give you points and coins – and three winners will be receiving eco-prizes.

Learn more about Green Living

The winners of the ECOED gaming challenge will be presented with their prizes at the Green Living with ECOED event on 1 June.

At this event we will also have short talks about what it means to live a more sustainable lifestyle, discussions, tips and ideas on actions you can take to make a difference and activities suitable for the whole family.ecoedsmall

You can book the Green Living event on our Facebook page – it is FREE, so bring your family and friends!

Book here: https://www.facebook.com/events/607223626370890/

Looking forward to seeing you on 1 June!

Reci, Turby, Wavi, Halt and the ECOED LIFE Team

ecoedricci

Don’t Let Go!

Plastic Free St Albans‘ new Don’t Let Go! campaign and petition is inspired by the Marine Conservation Society, and seeks to prevent local balloon releases, and to discourage the use of balloons by businesses as promotional materials.

rubber jellyfishpicUpdate! Film screening of Rubber Jellyfish Thurs 28th March at The Inn on the Park, St Albans. Brand new Australian documentary about the environmental damage caused by balloons. Tickets £6/2 conc are limited. You have the option to dine as well.. Book early see more information and booking here.


Thanks to Emma Tyers from Plastic Free St Albans for our guest blog this week – all about balloons…


Why do we want to stop this?

When you let a balloon go, you’re littering upwards. Why is this acceptable, when most of us wouldn’t dream of dropping litter on the ground?

Latex balloons are often marketed as biodegradable, but in practice take many years to break down. They also often have plastic ribbons attached to them, which do not biodegrade.

balloongoldvervalley

Thanks to Ver Valley Society for photograph.

Balloons and their ribbons are very frequently found as river and beach litter, where they kill wildlife. Sea creatures and birds mistake them for jellyfish, blocking their intestines, and animals get entangled in the ribbons.

It’s also a waste of helium, a finite resource needed for medical purposes.


Are we just out to spoil your fun?

No! By all means use balloons for parties, but please make sure you hold onto them, and dispose of them correctly. This campaign is focussed on preventing mass littering events, not spoiling 6 year olds’ birthdays.

If you do however want to stop using balloons completely, there are lots of lovely, creative alternatives available. Check out the Balloons Blow website for ideas.

We need your help!

Sign the petition here to Herts County Council, to ban balloon releases on their land.

In line with the MCS Don’t Let Go! campaign, we have included sky lanterns too, because they also pose a threat to animals through ingestion and entanglement, and the additional hazard of fire.

Businesses, Schools, organisations: Sign up to the Don’t Let Go Campaign

  • If you run a local business, school or other organisation, please email Plastic Free St Albans to sign up to the Don’t Let Go campaign, and include the following in the Comment field (amend as appropriate):

“We pledge to permanently stop balloon and sky lantern releases at events under our control, and to not use balloons as promotional materials for our business”

balloonprincess ver valley

Photo taken by Ver Valley Society while clearing the River Ver.