Forty-four Eco-Schools across Northern Ireland have been celebrating impressive results from their participation in a Rethink Waste Project funded by the Department of the Environment and facilitated by TIDY Northern Ireland and Bryson Charitable Group.
The schools targeted paper and plastic usage by stopping junk mail and supplying refillable plastic drinks bottles. The actions they took mean that 113 tonnes of paper and 39 tonnes of plastic have been saved resulting in an overall carbon saving of 230 tonnes per annum. This has been the third and most successful year of the project so far.
Laurence Arbuckle, Senior Manager, Bryson Energy, Bryson Charitable Group said: “We are delighted to be here today along with Tidy NI and our funders and all the participating schools for the third Presentation of the Rethink Waste Education Project. Over the past three years, the project has gone from strength to strength in terms of raising awareness among young people of the issues surrounding waste and in the achievement of savings. This year’s schools have really embraced the message and have shown their commitment to reducing waste going forward.
I commend all the schools who have taken part this year - staff and pupils - and I know that you will all build upon the foundations that have been laid as we all go forward together towards a greener and cleaner future."
Four schools also took part in a pilot Zero Waste project which focused on improved segregation and recycling of waste. Results from the pilot were encouraging; the 1261 pupils taking part will be diverting 12.67 tonnes of waste from landfill per annum. On average each pupil in the schools involved now only sends 9 grams of waste to landfill each day.
TIDY Northern Ireland’s Chief Executive Dr Ian Humphreys said: “Once again thousands of young people have stepped up to the mark by preventing paper and plastic waste both in the school and at home. Parents will be pleased too as they have stopped the nuisance of junk mail entering their letterboxes, something simple enough for us all to do with a single phone call or email. Thanks have to go to every young person, every teacher and every parent who worked to make this the most successful year yet, as well as the funders and our partners Bryson Charitable Group.”
Schools enjoyed a presentation of certificates and prizes at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre followed by a tour of the wildlife and garden areas at the Oxford Island Nature Reserve. They left armed with great ideas to apply to their Eco-Schools programmes.
Two schools; Carrick Primary School, Warrenpoint, and Enniskillen Model Primary School, were awarded their prestigious Eco-Schools Green Flags during the course of the project; an internationally recognised symbol of environmental excellence in schools.
Betty Perris from the Department of Environment’s Rethink Waste team speaking at the celebration event said: “This is exactly the type of project which the Department’s Rethink Waste Fund was set up to assist. The participants have taken action to prevent waste occurring in the first place, which is always the best and most sustainable of options, where possible.”
Top performing schools that received a prize for their Eco-Schools programme were: Craigbrack Primary School, Londonderry; Fairview Primary School, Ballymoney and St Louise’s Comprehensive College, Belfast.
Neil McAllister Teacher and Eco-coordinator from Fairview Primary School, who also took part in the Zero Waste project said: “We were delighted to be part of this Rethink Waste project and feel it is a great way to educate our pupils for the future. Our parents are very supportive of our environmental work in school. A return rate of over 100% in our recent Mail Preference Service initiative is a clear indication of this. We are delighted to win the award for most replies, to know we have done our bit for the environment by reducing paper and plastic usage but also by using the award to further enhance recycling in our school.
The results from our Zero Waste project also really pleased us and showed the commitment of everyone in our school. We increased the percentage of our waste being recycled from 29% in December to 84% in March. We know we can still improve but, thanks to this project we are well on the journey to a more sustainable school”
Every pupil attending the event was able to take away a fruit tree sapling kindly provided by Lidl Northern Ireland.
If you are interested in Rethinking your school’s waste please check the websites www.eco-schoolsni.org and www.brysoneducation.org, and www.rethinkwasteni.org for easy and convenient hints and tips on how to reduce, reuse and recycle in everyday life.