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Pupils from The Bicester School tapped into their interest in recycling for a Go4SET project which earned them a People’s Choice Award, will encourage greater use of tap water and refillable bottles and reduce single use plastic at the Oxfordshire school.
In a project which saw the school partnered with one of the UK’s biggest recycling and waste management companies, Viridor, which operates the Ardley Energy Recovery Facility, the pupils designed and create a branded reusable plastic bottle for the school.
The pupils visited a Viridor materials recycling facility to learn more about recycling and compiled their own research as part of the project, learning that the average schools throws away 25kg of waste per pupil each year.
The team of six Year 8 pupils said of their 10-week project: “We aim to introduce reusable bottles to our school, replacing all that is being thrown away. We want to reduce the number of plastic bottles that are bought for simple drinks like water, and thrown away after one use, and encourage people to buy the reusable bottles we are going to design and advertise in our school.”
Teacher and mentor Kelly McKaig said: “Promoting drinking tap water through the school day makes sense for health, education and the environment. It is the best cost effective way to ensure students can work at the best of their academic ability through the school day.
“Our headteacher, Tony Rushworth, immediately saw the benefits for pupils and facility management. The students were praised for selecting a business model which made financial sense. It was a pleasure for me that they so readily saw that reducing the use of single use plastics was the very best option.”
Viridor’s Ardley Energy Recovery Facility Education Officer Jessica Baker-Pike, who mentored the pupils, said: “Secondary school students are an age group that are the hardest to reach with recycling messages.
“STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects with small numbers of students which are communicated by them to the whole school audience work effectively. This project showed that approximately 100 million single use plastic bottles from school canteens across the UK could be prevented from ending up in residual waste (that which cannot be recycled) streams.”
Kelly and Jessica said the project was so well received that, on the day of the award, a member of the judging panel had offered to fund the project to ensure it was implemented.
Kelly added: “The school will make a small profit on the printed refillable bottles, enabling it to buy more drinking water fountains for the school and refill those which aren’t connected to the main water supply.”
The bottles, sold for £1.50, will be on the uniform list for 2018 year 7 cohort and have the potential to save 6km of single use plastic bottles sold at one school annually (when bottles are laid end-to-end).