Primary children prove they can be catalysts for change in reducing plastic pollution in Preston

Pupils from Lea St Mary's Primary addressing Preston council about its plans to scrap plastic use.
Pupils from Lea St Mary's Primary addressing Preston council about its plans to scrap plastic use.
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Primary school activists were the catalysts in a major drive to reduce plastic pollution in Preston.

They might be young but children at Lea St. Mary’s Primary School did not let that stop them in making a difference to their home city.

Christopher from Lea St Mary's Primary addressing Preston council about its plans to scrap plastic use.

Christopher from Lea St Mary's Primary addressing Preston council about its plans to scrap plastic use.

Last year members of the school’s council demanded to know how Preston City Council (PCC) was working towards reducing plastic use.

READ MORE: Swans nesting in plastic litter at Haslam Park duck pond
Addressing councillors at Town Hall year five pupil Christopher Holland-Bass, who is now in year six, said: “We are worried about animals dying from plastic rubbish. How can the council help to educate people not to throw away plastic bottles?”

His question, which was greeted with a standing ovation at the time, so inspired councillors that now an array of initiatives tackling the issue is to come before members of the city’s authority for approval.

From using its clout with businesses, charities, school and partners to call for a ‘plastic free Preston’ to introducing refillable water stations and creating reusable building block from plastic pollution, PCC is set to vote on measures at a meeting on Thursday, January 31.

Plastic pollution in the sea. Picture by Blue Planet 2, BBC.

Plastic pollution in the sea. Picture by Blue Planet 2, BBC.

It is hoped that the measures will go some way to preserving the environment for future generations, such as the campaigning primary school children at Lea St. Mary’s.

On hearing that he and his fellow pupils had made a difference to city policy on plastic pollution Christoper said: "It feels amazing that what we have done as a school has helped the whole of Preston. When I asked the question to the council I didn't think anything would happen! I can't believe the effect we have had."

In a report chairman of the Plastic Free Preston scrutiny group coun John Swindells wrote: “Plastic pollution reduction is one of the biggest challenges facing the future of our planet.

“All of us have our part to play in ensuring we hand over our planet to future generations in the best possible condition.

“For that reason, it is very appropriate that this Task and Finish topic was given to us by the future generation.

“The pupils of Lea St. Mary’s Primary School came to full council to challenge us to do what we could to improve their environment today and in the future.”

Class three teacher Matthew Taylor, who was leading the primary school’s council when the young people brought their concerns to Town Hall, told the Post the concerns about plastic came from the children themselves, without his influence.

“The children had watched The Blue Planet and picked up on the plastics problem. They decided it was something they wanted to address on the school council at the time,” he said.

“We thought of a question as a school council to put to the city council and during one of their meetings we put our question to them which was basically about the children’s concerns and about what the council was going to do.

“It was very well received. The councillors gave a round of applause. They said Christopher spoke very well and answered all the questions.

“They said as we had asked the question they wanted to come and see us. So councillors came into the school and met with the children and talked about what their concerns were and what ideas they had and how to make Preston plastic free.

“Our MP Mark Menzies also came in and spoke in assembly and he spoke to the council as well.

“We even won a Lancashire Post Education Award because of the work we had done. We got the Sustainable School Award 2018.

“In school we’ve got a plastic bin but this project was more really about awareness they raised around the issue and how they got the council involved in addressing it.

“The most impressive thing that it completely came from the children. They were obviously concerned about it and the future of the planet that they will inherit. It really was the fact that the children were there asking the questions and it’s something that they will have to deal with.”

Responding the report being tabled before decision-makers at PCC this week, the chairman of governors at St Mary’s Primary School Gerard Oakes said: “As a small local school, St Mary’s Catholic Primary at Lea Town is very proud to have been a catalyst for “Action on Plastics” in Preston.

“Part of our ethos at St Mary’s is that we believe we should look after each other and the world around us.

“We were therefore really pleased that, following all their hard work in school on this topic and including increasing parental awareness at home, our children had the opportunity to talk to the city council at the council meeting in April 2018 to express their concerns on plastics and the environment.

“It is great to see the children’s concerns had been recognised and that the city council is starting to take action by publication of this report.”

He also went on to thank PCC ‘for listening to our children and their concerns and hope that all parts of the community work together to address this important issue’.

Recommendations coming before decision-makers to reduce plastic pollution in Preston

* That the council works with anchor institutions, stakeholders and in the city such as Community Gateway Association, NHS, UCLAN, PrestonBID towards Preston becoming a ‘Plastic Free Community’ and that the cabinet member for the environment take a lead on the issue

* That the council takes a lead by continuing to replace plastic items in council buildings with environmentally friendly non-plastic versions

* To limiting the release of balloons on council-owned land

* To encourage the use of refillable water stations at Rockprest and Preston Pride

* To install refillable bottle water stations at locations such as the Market Hall and Parks Pavilions

* To encourage local businesses, community organisations and schools to support the movement and commit to removing at least three single use plastics

* Councillors visit local schools to educate young people about the Plastic Free Movement and the Plastic Free Preston Campaign.

* That the council educate the public about the ‘Plastic Free Movement’ using signposting, publishing information on its website, encouraging people to write to local supermarkets and providing a training and education package

* That officers be requested investigate the feasibility of creating a collection point in Preston for Ecobricks UK