DCC students

Figure 1 Students with the collected plastic waste from their lunches. Photo credit: Leigh McKenzie

The Dunedin City Council arranged an event to promote the reduction of single-use plastic in students’ lunch boxes as part of Plastic Free July 2019. The aim of the project was to engage students and empower them to make a difference by using less plastic. Dunedin City Council provided:

  • An information sheet for teachers on how to run the event
  • All equipment and resources needed for the workshops, such as irons, beeswax and material
  • Facilitation to run a workshop measuring the amount of plastic from a normal lunch day and a discussion around the impact of plastics, including a worksheet-based exercise if visual collection and weighing was not possible
  • A workshop for students to make beeswax wraps for students to use
  • Facilitation for the follow-up workshop to measure the amount of plastic on the plastic-free lunch day, including a discussion of solutions and alternatives, and a worksheet designed to reveal students’ understanding before and after the discussion
  • Celebratory morning tea for the classes with the biggest overall and plastic per student reduction
  • Advice on some extra activities the school could do to expand the learning opportunities.

“We finished all of St Francis Xavier School on the programme yesterday (five classes). They went from 128 pieces of plastic to 17 from the whole school! A reduction of 86%! We are seeing lots of the beeswax wraps in their lunches, as well as a lot of parent discussion about Plastic Free Lunches on the school’s internal platform ‘Seesaw’, and every class has had kids telling me about discussions with their parents, and also seen a big reduction in the quantity of plastic before and after.”
Leigh McKenzie, Waste Minimisation Officer, Dunedin City Council

This is a great example of how councils can connect with schools as a way of educating the public about the need to reduce how much plastic we use. By providing students with actionable insights on ways to reduce the environmental impacts of single-use plastics, students become empowered to act and share their learnings more widely through their family and community. The ‘before and after’ worksheet illustrated the learnings that students had about the impact of plastic on the environment, which is critical to support long-term changing practices. Initiatives that engage students in thinking about plastic waste are particularly effective if situated within whole school approaches such as Enviroschools that help ensure they are maintained and refreshed on a regular basis. Such programmes also allow schools to be part of networks that help to hold and grow good practices (read the Case Study).

 

Councils can connect with schools as a way of educating the public about the need to reduce how much plastic we use

 

Explore more case studies from Rethinking Plastics

Sustainability through connection, learning and action

With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:…

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

In a study of the carbon footprint of projected global plastic use between 2015 and 2050, Zheng and Suh modelled a theoretical situation of 100% recycling of plastic in 2050, and found it had a 25%…

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Globelet offers a reusable cup system for festivals and other events. The cups are made from recycled polypropylene (#5) and manufactured onshore. Globelet provides the following statistics on their…

How big is the plastic clothing problem for Aotearoa New Zealand?

Some plastic articles of clothing are captured in the ‘Plastics and articles thereof’ harmonised trade codes in import data from Statistics NZ, but this does not account for all synthetic fibres im…

A business enabling people to rethink their use of plastic

Ecostore is an exemplar of how a business can take transformative action to rethink how we use plastics and inspire system-wide change. To enable people to reduce their use of non-renewable single-…

New Zealand Post’s quest for an alternative to plastic

The driver: New Zealand Post wants a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to their existing plastic mailers (e.g. courier bags, pre-paid postage bags). New Zealand Post has also…

Para Kore – helping people reduce their waste

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce…

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community wor…

Controlled plastic decomposition

Plastics are made by joining monomers together to form long flexible chains in a process known as polymerisation. The strength of the bonds formed between monomers is what makes the plastics persis…

Recyclable shoes

As part of its recent pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas revealed a new sneaker made from 100% recyclable materials. Driven by a connection to environmental organisation Parley for…