Lewis School Pengam took part in YRE and the Litter Less Campaign this year on a mission to help their school reduce waste and recycle more. They took part in a YRE workshop to learn more about plastic waste and then did a litter pick in their local community. The boys really enjoyed getting out into their neighbourhood and were delighted to find an old can that turned out to be from approx 1984, older than themselves and many of their teachers!
Teachers and students from Glan-y-Môr, Ysgol Bryngwyn and Coedcae Secondary Schools came together for an education day on reducing plastic waste, which was organised by the environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy.
Over forty young people took part in the education day, which was hosted by Ysgol Glan-y-mor in Burry Port, Carmarthenshire on the 15th of January. The day included activities and a workshop on reducing plastic waste, which and was followed by a beach clean at the local beach, Burry Port West.
This day was organised as part of the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competition and the Litter Less Campaign, with support from Eco-Schools Wales.
We asked pupils to write up their experience of the day and this is what Rhys Thomas from Coed Cae School said:
“On the 15th January we attended the Keep Wales Tidy Workshop at Glan-Y-Mor School. In the workshop I learnt about the different types of plastic and where all our waste ends up. After the workshop we went down to the beach and did a litter pick. We found a lot of unused plastic that is harmful to wildlife but we had to leave the beach because there was a storm which I learnt is happening more frequently due to global warming. After we went back to Glan-Y-Mor school we went through the dangers of plastics and how to reduce our carbon footprint. We then watched a video on Greta Thunberg and she explained that if we didn’t clean up our mess we wouldn’t have a future. At the end we were taught about the SDG’s and we also saw low income countries with huge amounts of plastic waiting to be burnt, damaging the air for all the residents. I learnt a lot from the workshop and have been encouraging my family to reduce their carbon footprints and recycle plastic carefully. We also always pick up any plastic we see when we go down to the beach.”
The local news published a story on the event: https://bit.ly/2BXRYo8
St Dominic's Grammar School collaborated with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in a big litter picking event to promote the launch of the Public Consultation of DAERA for their new Environmental Strategy. Some of our YRE students at St Dominic's took part in this important event. Later in the year, some of the most active YRE committed to promoting climate action were interviewed by national TV UTV to share their views about the climate emergency and to promote the Litter Less Campaign as part of their actions to halt the climate crisis.
A step forward has been taken this year to improve recycling system and reduce the use of single-use plastic at the Belfast Tourist attraction St. George's Market thanks to a group of Young Reporters for the Environment determined to make a change. Following last year’s successful initiative by St. Louise's Comprehensive College, some students members of the Eco-Committee at St. Mary's Christian Brothers Grammar School decided to visit the market this year again to find out if there were any changes or improvements at the market as a consequence of last year's YRE investigation.
Since last year, the Belfast City Council has introduced recycling bins, which were not there at all before, and prepared posters to encourage visitors to bring their own reusable cup when visiting the market. This was part of the suggestions from the girls at St Louise's who first investigated the issue. 87.5% of members of the public interviewed knew what the single-use plastic issue is and stated it is a big problem.
Last year 70% of the vendors had single-use plastic food containers, while 66% of vendors stated that this year they have changed to using compostable containers instead of polystyrene ones. This has been a great achievement that young people involved in YRE and the Litter Less Campaign were able to raise awareness about the issue and demand change from the authorities. The Council representatives and the Market manager are currently collaborating with the students and KNIB to further this positive change.
Litter Less Campaign students from St. Mary’s CGBS made this video about the effort to eliminate single-use plastics from St. George’s Market:
Sam Patterson’s love of the environment started when he was a just a baby, when he would be calmed by the sound of wind moving through the trees. As a toddler he could be found gently stroking snail shells in the garden, and by age four he regularly wondered if trees might have senses we don’t understand. At age seven, the same year he was diagnosed with dyslexia, Sam was speculating if we could freeze exhaust fumes and somehow reuse them, or at least prevent them from polluting the air. When he was nine, Sam was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
And this year, Sam published a piece of environmental journalism that won first place in the Northern Ireland Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) national competition. His Litter Less Campaign article ‘The Natural Respirator’ explores the paradox between humanity’s connection to nature and our tendency to harm it through human activities.
Read Sam’s winning article here
Sam’s lifelong passion for the environment inspired him to participate in the YRE competition, and personal experience moved him to choose the topic of his article.
“My family were experiencing quite a lot of difficulty at the time as my grandfather was dying of Covid in hospital,” says Sam. “There were a lot of these man made policies and safety regulations and things for them to deal with. But really I was thinking about how I could help to benefit the environment. The environment feels more straightforward – there’s no catch to looking after it. It’s a flawless thing. That’s why I called it the Natural Respirator. I knew about shortages in the UK and that they were tied to leaving the EU and the secrecy around this. There’s no pride in nature. It’s easier for me to relate to it.”
Sam’s mother Rachael says that despite his differences, he has always been enthusiastic about expressing his love of nature. Even though he struggled to read and write when he was younger, Sam has always had a vivid imagination and a strong grasp of language.
“Sam preferred to communicate by drawing and talking, and much of what he drew was to do with the natural environment,” says Rachael. “On discovering his dyslexia he gained the support he needed to allow his love of words to take shape on the page. He was then able to enjoy the text as well as the photos in his many wildlife books. Sam then joined the school's Eco Council and found his place. There he developed confidence in writing about what he loved, often illustrating his ideas. His great passions in life are the environment and art, with writing coming along a little later, but with growing confidence it proves an ever increasing channel for Sam's self-expression.”
Sam joins the ranks of other spirited young environmentalists with autism, including Greta Thunberg and fellow Northern Irishman Dara McAnulty, who channel their particular ways of seeing the world into positive action for the planet. Leadership comes in many forms, and these young activists are using their unique perspectives to change the way people think about the environment.
As for Sam, YRE has given him the opportunity to hone his environmental reporting skills and provided a platform to communicate his message to the world. He hopes that his article can inspire others to reconsider their attitudes and behaviour towards nature.
“I hope it’ll allow them to realise that we need to strengthen our relationship with the environment. To understand that we’re all part of one huge ecosystem, and we’re all interconnected. Distancing ourselves from fully knowing this isn’t good for us… When there’s an increase in knowledge there’s an increase of support, of passion and of a will to change things, I think.”
Litter Less Campaign students from several schools in Spain created highly effective media campaigns.
The campaign that has had the most impact is the one developed by the Manuel Riquelme school in Orihuela (Alicante). They launched a campaign called “Desplastify Yourself”, whose objective is to raise awareness in all the schools in the municipality to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of single-use plastics in the educational centers of this community. The campaign has been promoted in the local media, and several schools in the municipality have progressively enrolled in it.
An article and video about the campaign were published in the local news (in Spanish): https://vegabajadigital.com/cerca-de-8-000-alumnos-de-orihuela-participaran-en-desplastificate/
Enrique Soler school in Melilla launched an initiative called “Plastics on the Frozen Continent,” a campaign to raise awareness about the presence of plastics in the oceans that eventually reach Antarctica. The school invited scientists and military personnel who carry out research campaigns in Antarctica every year to speak about the issue. Thanks to this, they started to set up a Sea Museum in the educational center itself. Melilla is one of the two Spanish cities located in North Africa, on the Strait of Gibraltar. This area is home to vast marine biodiversity, and the students at this school have been collecting biological samples, waste and information on the various impacts that our seas suffer in order to raise awareness and build valuable educational resources to interpret what is happening in our seas. Thanks to the Litter Less Campaign, the Enrique Soler school continues to give life to their museum of the sea. The students collect waste and biological samples from this area with the greatest biodiversity in the Mediterranean.
The students produced a video for their Plastics on the Frozen Continent campaign:
The IES Jorge Manrique collaborated with the town council to carry out a waste cleanup campaign on the 22nd of February in a natural area of the municipality. The cleanup activity was the culmination of the participation of the educational center in the YRE Litter Less Campaign. The students also made hanging gardens for some spaces in the school as part of the awareness campaign to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.
An article about the school’s activities (in Spanish):
The International European School of Barcelona held a workshop to teach pupils how to produce bio plastics. During the Community Action Day celebration, which was also open to families, they made an exhibition of everything done during the course about reusing waste.
Students from SMC Senior Secondary School, Verdala, Cospicua created a video about plastic pollution and sent it to all Cottonera local councils.
Our Lady Immaculate School organised a one day seminar discussing alternatives to plastic products. Following the seminar, Litter Less Campaign students went around to the classrooms and did a presentation about the subject. Throughout the year, students made a PowerPoint presentation about reducing the consumption of plastic bags, and they gave out bamboo toothbrushes to fellow students. The students participated in an art competition on the theme of plastic bag reduction, and the students were involved in creating an art installation made from plastic bottles.
Students from St. Thomas More College Zejtun Secondary School organised a march in the streets of their community to protest the use of plastic bags as part of their SUP (Stop Using Plastic) campaign. They also canvassed the Zejtun market, where they stopped consumers who were carrying products in single-use plastic bags and showed them alternative solutions. The media was present during the event, which helped the students share their message with a wider audience. The school gave out free reusable bags to those present at the event, and the students brought in enough donations to “adopt” seven injured turtles!
Here is the Facebook page that the students created for the SUP campaign: https://www.facebook.com/SUPDbest/
The students were interviewed on the local news:
Photos from the event:
Launch of the Litter Less Campaign 2019/2020 in Malta.
Students at Vittoriosa Primary School will be taking aim at systematically seeking to educate the community to properly dispose off and eliminate cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are believed to be the most pervasive form of plastic pollution on the planet with trillions are discarded every year. Students at Vittoriosa Primary School will be taking on the role of activists to educate the community against discarding cigarette butts irresponsibly for they negatively impact and contaminate the world’s oceans.
Students will organise a clean up by the sea and analyse a sample study by calculating the amount of cigarette butts collected. With the results in hands, students will then organise a meeting with the local council to discuss their results and their ideas of what they intend to do to put forward this issue. Students will discuss their idea of having a protest walk with slogans written by the students themselves with the help of the teachers and LSEs and persuade the local council to set up cigarette bins in all parts of the city, a suggestion which must be initiated urgently in Vittoriosa. Portable ashtrays will also be discussed.
A video will also be taken during the protest walk and members of EkoSkola will also be discussing with residents what happens when cigarette butts are dumped directly on to beaches. In this case, cigarette butts are washed into the oceans and disintegrated into microplastics easily consumed by marine life. The general community will be reached by posting on social media, through the school's facebook group as well as by writing on digital newspapers and newspapers and advertising the action. The cigarette butt scheme will drastically lessen the increasing number of cigarette butts on the streets and on the beaches. By this educational campaign, students will ensure that people start to realise that cigarette butt waste damages habitat, landscapes and ecosystems and lasts forever!
Kerikeri High School held a number of Community Action events over a number of days which coincided with Keep New Zealand Beautiful Week. Students were involved in a poster competition to design new recycling bins for the school, prizes were given for a school-wide quiz about waste. Students also held stalls throughout the school to educate others about the importance of separating recycling items.
A local waste management company got involved and offered free recycling and rubbish bags for groups of students to conduct a clean up of the local surroundings, including a nearby beach. The rubbish that was collected was then audited by students who will be presenting their results to the whole school in the coming weeks.
A turtle sculpture was also made from recycled plastic bottles and beeswax wrap workshops were held for interested participants.
New Environmental Policies - A Youth Strategy for the Environment
Forty young activists, including some Young Reporters for the Environment from St Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls and Ulidia Integrated College, met with policy makers at Stormont on 17th January to set out their demands for safeguarding the environment, as they play their part in shaping Northern Ireland’s first ever environment strategy, which is currently out for public consultation. Students gave suggestions about what they think should be included in the strategy by working in groups to answer questions on this topic.
Supported by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Ulster Wildlife and the Belfast Hills Partnership, the passionate and environmentally conscious young people, aged 11 to 24, have already been taking action to improve hundreds of local green spaces and tackle environmental issues, such as climate change. Some of these improvements have been possible through litter pick events and Community Action Days supported by Mars Wrigley Foundation.
A representative of these young activists advocated to act now on the climate crisis, because catastrophes, like the fires in Australia, will become more common place across the world, changing ecosystems beyond repair. They also commented about the need to improve the recycling facilities in Northern Ireland, so we can stop wasting money, energy, and resources by making things from scratch. It is possible: Sweden recycle 99 percent of their waste, so why can't we? Young people have great ideas too; they just need to be listened to more!
The youth-led movement is calling for three key asks to be included in the forthcoming strategy: more time for young people learning in and about nature, more support for young people to get environmental jobs, and more opportunities for young people to be heard and play an active role in society. It’s time to speak up!
Lewis School Pengam took part in a YRE introduction session for teachers and students and then a community litter pick along a local river walkway.. The students were very enthusiastic and the highlight was finding a Pepsi Cola can from the 1980's. Much fun was had guessing how old it could be and it was a fantastic demonstration of how long it takes for drink cans to biodegrade in the environment. The story of the ancient can was picked up by the local press 'The Caerphilly Observer'.
On September 20, 2019, the sun was shining and the Osmanthus flower was fragrant. 24 environmental volunteers from Hakka primary school in Longquanyi district of Chengdu visited Chengdu Xingrong Wanxing environmental protection power plant under the guidance of 4 teachers. The students watched a power plant information video, understood the function and operation principle of environmental protection power plant. The students listened to the lecture and made notes carefully. The students visited the factory and learned about the process of converting waste into useful electricity and other energy. They also enthusiastically participated in an interactive garbage classification game. The visit and learning activity ended with the laughter and reluctance of the students. The experiential activity is the motivation for them to do a good job in garbage classification, turning waste into treasure and practicing environmental protection activities.
The National Institute of Mass Communication and Journalism in association with Centre for Environment Education organised a debate on "Is Mainstream National Media Giving Enough Importance to Environmental Issues?"
This was an important activity to know where environmental journalism stands in the country and to empower youth in various ways to take a stand on the issue and become citizen reporters in order to address these issues.
Our success story continues to be that of using plastic bottles to plant flowers and for beautification in school. We collected plastic bottles, cut them into appropriate shapes and used them to plant different flowers as well as making decorative patterns across the school yard. Our school now looks attractive with the bottles at different places in the school. We have turned the filth of waste into beauty
Students from St Thomas More College St Lucia came up with the idea of a 30-day litter challenge - where every day they come up with a new challenge at school; getting the whole school on board. For the first term there was focus on Christmas - to make it as waste free as possible. Other challenges included clean up, decorating with used material, eliminating disposables at school (teachers brought their own cups for the coffee machine) and giving workshops on how to wrap presents with reusable items! Parents were also involved of course.
A new set of 30-day challenge are being implemented in term 2 and 3
Year 6 pupils from Griffithstown Primary School are taking part in an investigation which looks into the pollution of their local canal. YRE Litter Less Campaign fits well with the aspirations of the School as the cleanliness of the canal is important to the children of the school and moreover, to the people of Griffithstown. The nearby Friends of Henllys Local Nature Reserve received a grant to improve the use of digital learning outdoors so it was agreed that members of the Group should train the pupils to use their underwater drone to look at litter in the canal which will create footage for their YRE film entry. The pupils at Griffithstown Primary spent a great day with Chris from the local nature reserve learning and practicing how to use the drone.