School children in Buxton have successfully completed an education programme delivered by Nestle Waters focusing on the importance and benefits of plastic waste recycling. Developed in partnership with charities RECOUP and Wastebuster, the ‘R-Generation’ educational drive consisted of competitions and lesson plans for a wide range of age groups.
Plastic Recycling Education Packs were distributed to both secondary and primary schools, containing resources specially linked to the national curriculum. Materials in the packs included lesson plans, multimedia content such as videos for interactive assemblies, and teacher’s notes. To further engage the children, a ‘Pledge 4 Plastics’ competition was run in primary schools alongside a business and enterprise competition aimed at secondary school students, with prizes on offer for both groups.
The education pack for primary school students focused on the process of plastic waste recycling, examining the journey of a plastic bottle from manufacture and disposal, through recycling, and back to re-use. The primary school competition encouraged pupils to recycle an increased volume of plastic bottles every week, in addition to enlisting their teachers, friends and family to pledge to do the same.
Progress was tracked by the Pledge-o-meter and the school with the most pledges was in line to win a ‘Baby Bustas’, the first soft toy in the UK made entirely from rPET obtained from recycled plastic bottles. Burbage Primary and Peak Dale Primary schools were joint winners. Teachers reported that everyone involved had thoroughly enjoyed the plastic recycling pledge and that it had had a ‘ripple effect’ across the wider community. This ripple, argues RECOUP, is precisely how to bring about positive behavioural change.
Innovation and enterprise
Secondary school students were encouraged to consider the possibilities of plastic as a material, with a focus on changing commonly held behaviours and attitudes towards plastic and recycling. The educational aspect of the programme also examined the life cycle of plastic bottles through recycling. The programme’s content was intended to convey the positive message that recycled plastic can be transformed into so many different products, from headphones to football shirts and jeans.
For their part, the secondary school students were asked to utilise their innovation, enterprise and creative skills in order to produce ideas as to how to better engage the public and get them to recycle no matter where they are, be it at home, school or on the go. Pupils with winning submissions received high street shopping vouchers.
According to RECOUP, ideas that particularly impressed judges included incentivising recycling via a plastic recycling token scheme, and recycling bins in school which make a fun noise when an item is placed inside. Other ideas included voting bins, where two transparent bins are used, allowing the public to vote on a topical or local issue by placing their plastic bottles into one of the two bins. A sustainable, achievable and cost-effective means of recycling at festivals to reduce the enormous volume of waste produced every year was also proposed.
The R-Generation educational programme was trialled in Buxton, but RECOUP and Nestle have stated their desire to roll out the programme nationally by making the resources freely available to schools. RECOUP has stated that many parts of the curriculum can be used to inform and educate attitudes and behaviours towards recycling.