Skip to main content

The plastic-free primary school

A group of students eradicated single-use plastics from this primary school

primary school plastic free

A group of students eradicated single-use plastics from this primary school

The idea came from the children. They had just been given a talk by an environmentalist about how plastic is harming our environment and animals, and they wanted to make a difference.

How could the school, they asked, help reduce the plastic that was being used locally?

How could they help protect the beaches and countryside around their homes?

Quick read: How eco-friendly is your school

Quick listen: What should we be teaching in schools?

Want more articles like this? Join our Tes Teaching and Learning Facebook group 

I got in contact with Litter Free Coast and Sea, as well as Litter Free Dorset, who helped the children launch Refill Poundbury, where businesses display a sticker in their window and members of the public can go and refill their reusable bottle with free drinking water, reducing single-use plastic bottles.

The children wrote a letter and visited businesses signing up 23 businesses to the scheme in one afternoon.

Primary school power

The children then decided they wanted to tackle single-use plastic within the school by creating a working group. This group was a mixture of our eco-committee and junior governors, with each class having at least one representative.

The children spoke in assembly outlining their ideas, which included holding a single-use plastic event, litter picking round the outside area of the school, making a list and audit of what single-use plastic was used in school and how everyone could help support their campaign by removing single use plastic.

Each child then made a pledge about what plastic they would remove or what could be an alternative to plastic, for example bringing in a reusable water bottle, having a waste free lunch, refusing plastic straws, using stainless steel or wooden cutlery.

Further steps

The group of children met with the PTA to get their support to make sure all school events were plastic-free, too.

But then there was the issue of plastic coming into the school from other sources. Not content to let this slip, the children wrote letters to businesses connected to the school to ask if products could come to school free of single-use plastics.

The children sometimes had to persevere and not take no for an answer. Their persistence was always rewarded in the end. For example, one business agreed to send fruit in cardboard boxes, and another delivered milk in reusable glass bottles with reusable beakers.

High praise

The children also wrote a letter to their local MP, Oliver Letwin, asking for his support and also invited him into school to see their work at first hand. This also gave the children the opportunity to question him about what the government is doing to reduce single-use plastic.

Finally the children asked the school, parents and staff to give up three examples of single use plastics in their home and at school.

The end result of all this work? Nearly all single use plastics have been eliminated at Damers.

A Gove visit

This amazing achievement came with the reward of a meeting with Michael Gove, environment secretary and former much-discussed education secretary.

The children questioned Mr Gove on his plans for tackling litter, and presented him with their "golden rules" for how the system should operate. They also gave him a sculpture of a can representing what our fossils might look like in 100 years' time if we do not act now.

Edd Moore is a Year 3 teacher at Damers First School, Dorset


Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you