Schools from around the country brought the fight against plastic waste to the doorstep of power yesterday with a mass lobby of MPs at the Houses of Parliament. MPs in attendance included former Prime Minister Theresa May, former leader of the Conservative Party Iain Duncan Smith and former leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.
Thirty four students between nine and eleven years old from nine schools and community group the People Dem Collective, along with children’s television presenter Mwaka Mudenda, joined the The Big Plastic Count Youth Empowerment Day. The students grilled their local MPs on the UK’s plastic waste problem and called on them to take greater action to curb plastic pollution by introducing a 50% reduction in single-use plastic by 2025. This campaign comes ahead of the government setting environmental targets this autumn. The schools, traveling from as far as Blackburn and Cornwall had taken part in The Big Plastic Count, a citizen science project launched by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic. The count saw around 100,000 households, businesses and community groups sign up to collect, record and submit data on a week’s worth of their plastic waste to help build evidence for more action to tackle waste plastic.
1,980 classes across the UK took part in The Big Plastic Count, giving them the opportunity to both learn about and take action on the UK’s plastic waste problem. Having received their plastic footprints, and discovered how little of their waste is actually getting recycled, The Big Plastic Count Youth Empowerment Day gave children the chance to directly ask MPs for the change they now want to see.
The mass lobby came ahead of today’s World Refill Day (16.06.22) which has seen the release of an open letter demanding that the five companies named as the biggest plastic polluters enact a reuse and refill policy. The letter, coordinated by City to Sea and signed by organisaitons including Greenpeace, Muslim Council of Britain and the Women’s Institute calls on companies to:
REVEAL the full extent of their plastic footprint if they do not already do so.
REDUCE the amount of plastic they use by setting ambitious, transparent targets and supporting action plans on how to achieve them.
REINVENT their packaging to make it suitable for refill and reuse in a way that is accessible and affordable to all.
Fiona Hadfield, headteacher, St. Wulstan’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Great Harwood, Lancs, said:
“The children from St. Wulstan’s have thoroughly enjoyed their day. As a school, we have done a considerable amount of work on The Big Plastic Count and the children are passionate about their responsibility of protecting our common home. The opportunity to come to London and work with other children, as well as visiting the Houses of Parliament, has reinforced the children’s desire to conserve the beauty of our planet.”
Maja Darlington, plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
“It’s hugely inspiring seeing these young people get involved and push their MPs for change. Their hard work and enthusiasm has really brought home the harsh reality of the plastic crisis to some of the most powerful people in the country.
“Plastic waste is everywhere – the problem is huge and the challenge of fixing it can feel overwhelming. But as these students told their MPs, there are solutions out there – we just need our politicians and big businesses to grasp them. Whether that’s moving to refill and reuse products that are accessible to all or introducing targets to cut plastic production, by taking the right actions we can finally get a grip on plastic waste.”