Say 'goodbye' to your laminator

Attempts to eliminate avoidable plastic waste could put an end to our laminating days. But is this such a bad thing?

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As a new term approaches, get ready to bid 'farewell' to your trusty laminator.

Why? Because on 27 December, education secretary Damien Hinds announced that all schools must be single-use plastic free by 2020, and will be eliminating the use of avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

Fellow teachers, I fear this means that our beloved laminators may be consigned to the educational dustbin of history, along with the Banda copier, the overhead projector, and the telly trolly.

Like many teachers, I discovered laminating when I was in my training year. Until that point in my life, laminating was something that just happened. The world of laminating was a mystery.

Then I tried it for myself. I felt the shiver of joy that comes from running a resource through the laminator and watching the colours brighten under the shiny plastic: your work forever preserved in a perpetual state of perfection.

Soon, I was laminating anything I could get my hands on. A5 flashcards, A4 text extracts, A3 writing mats…nothing was off limits.

Schools up and down the country have boxes of laminated resources. Laminating means that your handouts can be both wipe-clean and sturdy, perfect for the grubby, clumsy hands of students. Valuable handouts can be used, and reused, over and over again.

Is laminating worth it?

But for every box of sensibly-stored laminated resources, there must be another twenty boxes of unnecessarily laminated sheets languishing in a landfill somewhere, taking hundreds of years to decompose.

Posters on the wall, spelling lists on keyring chains, name labels above pegs: classrooms are awash in laminated resources. And where do these shiny plastic resources end up? In the bin. Not only have they been personalised for the teacher or class, but they also become outdated as curriculums change.

So, what can we do about this? Will schools jump on the bandwagon early, and force laminating underground? If they do, a black market could emerge, with laminating pouches being exchanged in shady corners of the playground. There would be backstreet laminators. Stationery dealers.

Or will we find teachers holding their machines hostage, insisting that the laminators will only be handed over when prised out of their cold dead hands?

Only time will tell. But one thing is certain: the obsession with laminating has rippled out further than the classroom. The hallways, reception areas, and offices of our schools will all have to detox on their plastic addictions if we are to meet Damian Hinds' targets.

And ultimately, even the most laminator-loving teacher must admit that there cannot be a good enough reason to laminate a resource if it means that resource will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

Forget dry January…perhaps we should all try to go cold turkey on the laminating?

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