Pupils are taking the lead in a bid to reduce plastic waste at Saffron Walden County High School

PUBLISHED: 19:25 06 May 2018 | UPDATED: 19:25 06 May 2018

Members of the Youth Leadership Team. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Members of the Youth Leadership Team. Picture: CONTRIBUTED


Saffron Walden County High School (SWCHS) has introduced two new initiatives to reduce the school’s plastic consumption.

The Youth Leadership Team, made up of students in Year 10 and Year 11 who meet once a week to discuss ideas for making changes around the school, were the driving force behind the decision to reduce the use of plastic and non-biodegradable packaging.

SWCHS is the first school to sign up to a scheme known as ‘Born in the UK’ which uses 100 per cent recyclable cups for all takeaway hot drinks.

The coffee cups only travel 199 miles, reducing their carbon footprint, and yellow recycling bins have been placed at various points around the school for disposal of the cups, which will be collected and recycled.

After carrying out research, the Youth Leadership Team discovered they were using 2.2 tonnes of plastic every year as a school and they worked out that if they lined up all the plastic bottles that had been thrown away, they would be able to reach Braintree.

The price of a bottle of water purchased as a separate item at the school has now increased to £1 to encourage the use of refillable bottles and in due course the sale of plastic water bottles will be phased out from the school entirely.

But Tom Birkbeck, a Year 11 member of the Youth Leadership Team, emphasised the importance of education.

He said: “It’s a huge cultural change for everyone - it’s called the ‘blue planet effect’. But we now need education alongside the changes, such as through assemblies.”

One of the other challenges they now face is raising money to get more water fountains installed so refilling bottles is easier and more accessible.

The Youth Leadership Team which led these changes is only in its pilot year and Tom said: “For a pilot year, not really knowing what we were doing, I think we have achieved quite a lot.”

The school’s head teacher, Caroline Derbyshire added: “As a school community we are committed to reducing our usage of all plastics, particularly single use items. We are delighted to introduce this new scheme to recycle coffee cups and look forward to introducing more initiatives in the future to reduce our impact on the environment.”

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