Last year we blogged about two sisters who set up Kids Against Plastic, a campaign aiming to bring together people determined to break “plastic habits”, take practical action and lobby for change. Their campaign is still very much alive: they say that more than 1,300 schools have now signed up to their Plastic Clever School initiative. However, campaigners (including the sisters) are critical of government inaction after the latter set a target in 2018 for all schools to be free of single-use plastic by 2022. This seems like a massive missed opportunity: a nationwide plastic-free schools campaign will help protect the environment and also enable children to actively participate in positive change and learn about citizenship and decision-making as they do so.
The then education secretary, Damian Hinds, challenged all schools in December 2018 to go single-use plastic-free by 2022. He said that schools could lead by example and that the government would support by increasing communication with school suppliers: “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.”
Amy and Ella Meek set up their Kids Against Plastic campaign in 2018. So far, more than 1,300 schools have signed up to their Plastic Clever Schools initiative. The sisters were featured in a Guardian article at the weekend, which was critical of government inaction and lack of support.
We were excited to see the government target because it felt like a step in the right direction; they were acknowledging the importance encouraging schools to take action. But ‘eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic’ is hard to quantify – what falls into that category? How do they want schools to go about it? There was so little for schools to actually build upon.Amy Meek, quoted in the Guardian
We really thought that announcement would help make change happen but since then so little has been done; what’s the point of setting a target if nothing was going to happen towards it? It didn’t make sense to us that they would set this goal and then do nothing.
The Guardian article also features the environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, one of whose initiatives is a Plastic Free Schools programme.
The SAS website describes its programme as change-making and pupil-led. “This groundbreaking programme equips and empowers young activists with the tools to create positive, lasting environmental change.”
Once a school is signed up, it carries out a single-use plastic audit and then completes a set of objectives to achieve Plastic Free Schools status. The programme enables pupils to be proactive. For example, they are encouraged to contact the big plastic-polluting brands they find on their playgrounds to demand change. It “provides pupils with campaigning skills and empowers them to tackle unnecessary single-use plastic everywhere!” says the website.
Life-Based Learning seeks to embed what children and young people learn in real-world issues. Its nine life themes directly address the challenges that they — that all of us — face. Pollution is one such challenge. Young people need to be learning about the human footprint, including the damage to the world’s physical resources caused by human activity. They also need hands-on experience of what living sustainably means in practice.