Southend schools wage war on plastic waste

Six Southend schools are blazing the trail for other schools and businesses in the area by collecting their hard-to-recycle plastics for specialist recycling.

Students with collections boxes for hard to recycle plastics

As part of the PlastiCity project, run by Southend-on-Sea City Council, the schools intend to transform their approach after launching innovative mini recycling hubs on Monday 21 February.

Thorpe Hall School, Thorpedene Primary, Heycroft Primary, Kingsdown School, Southend High School for Boys and Southend Adult Community College are collecting different types of plastic for recycling, including rigid or hard plastics, crisp packets and sweet wrappers. These waste plastics will be broken down into high quality raw materials for use in the manufacturing industry. The schools will undertake a four-month challenge to educate themselves about reducing and recycling their plastic waste.

Rigid plastics, including toys, are being collected by the council’s waste and recycling partner, Veolia, and passed to UK plastics recycler, Van Werven. The other types will be collected and recycled through Veolia’s ProCycle scheme. Veolia will also run a number of school assemblies to help pupils better understand plastic pollution and how they can help combat it.

As part of the project, Thorpe Hall School successfully applied to the Veolia Sustainability Fund, which is available to Southend’s not-for-profit organisations and community groups. The funding will be used to provide some of the collection containers needed by the schools to participate in the trial and help fund communications materials.

Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture, tourism, and planning, said: “The UK produces more plastic waste per person than almost any other country, and it is estimated that a truckload enters the ocean every minute. For us to see real, tangible differences, we know that education is key. Our local young people are extremely passionate about the environment, and I am proud of those schools involved for taking proactive steps to increase plastic recycling.

“Not only will the school recycling collection trial save lots of plastic from landfill and incineration, it will also encourage schools to rethink their waste and make positive lasting changes.”

Mr Andrew Palmer, headteacher of Heycroft Primary School, said "We are very excited to be part of this project which will further help our pupils to understand the importance of responsible recycling.”

Stuart Atkinson, senior contract manager for Veolia UK said: “We are proud to be able to support Plasticity in this project, both operationally by carrying out the collection of rigid plastic on the participating schools' behalf and by delivering educational sessions to the pupils. We are looking forward to helping children in the city to develop their understanding of the role of recycling and waste reduction in the fight against climate change and inspire them to adopt sustainable behaviours.”

Southend-on-Sea is the only UK Local Authority chosen to take part in PlastiCity; a three-year research project that aims to increase plastic recycling in the UK, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

As part of the PlastiCity project, the council will work with local designers to explore how the schools’ recycled plastic can be incorporated into products made in Southend-on-Sea. The project hopes to demonstrate that lost plastic waste could be a valuable commodity for our city if properly reused and recycled.

Published: 18th March 2022

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