The plastic backlash: today’s children are insisting on a more sustainable world
It’s a fact: plastic is devastating our oceans, its wildlife and the food chain – and young people from across the country are demanding that adults do something about it. Quickly.
In winter 2017, pupils from Portreath Primary School embarked upon a mission to make their school plastic free and initiated their very own litter-picking “trash mob”. They wrote to their MP, George Eustice, about the impact plastic was having on their Cornish environment and didn’t shy from an invitation to address a parliamentary committee on the steps they had taken to eliminate plastic from their school. Theirs is not a lone voice. In December 2018, when the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, challenged all British schools to eliminate their use of single-use plastics by 2022, he admitted he was inspired to act when “On my first school visit as Education Secretary almost a year ago, the very first question I was asked by a pupil was what we can do to limit the damage of plastic on the environment.”
Now, in 2019, as thousands of schoolchildren from all over the UK walk out of classrooms to voice their frustration at the older generation’s inaction towards environmental decline, Britain’s youth are adamant that adults respond to the chilling words written on their strike placards: “Why bother learning facts, when parents won’t listen to them? “Don’t go breaking my earth!”
So, what changes can be made in the preschool environment? The reality is that plastic waste has been of huge concern within the nursery sector. Each year, the UK produces a monumental 5.2 million tonnes of plastic, much non-recyclable, and nurseries are aiming to reduce their contribution. Here’s what many have done: use of plastic gloves, aprons and disposable nappies has been reduced or even eliminated; where possible, the switch has been made to biodegradable wipes, with emphasis laid instead on hand-washing and washable fabrics; a policy of sourcing meat and vegetables locally has greatly reduced the purchase of plastic-wrapped food; plastic toys are phasing out, wooden toys and natural products have moved in.
And parents have the opportunity to make those adjustments too! Conscious purchasing and forward planning can support the move away from plastic use. Think about:
replacing at least some bathroom and kitchen items with plastic-free alternatives. Consider reverting to old-fashioned bar soap, replacing body scrubs with natural loofahs, using paper straws, wooden chopping boards, reusable cups, refillable metal water bottles, swapping in beeswax food wrap for cling film.
Georganics sell toothpaste and mouthwash suitable for toddlers and young children in glass jars rather than plastic tubes, as well as kids-size bamboo toothbrushes.
organising a regular, doorstep milk delivery in reusable glass bottles from a local dairy and choosing unwrapped fruit and vegetables from a market.
buying fewer plastic toys and instead allowing children to play with everyday, real objects. This is called heuristic play, a term coined in the 1980s by child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid who said, “The more toys do, the less a child does.” Never underestimate the value of bowls, funnels, tubes, sand, mud, sticks, wood, shells, boxes. In Bristol recently, at Ilminster Avenue Nursery School, staff packed away all toys for a month, replacing them with egg cartons, lollipop sticks, cardboard boxes and all sorts of packaging that would otherwise have ended up in recycling, and reported that children were engaged, that play was much more imaginative. A further plus point, according to a German study, is that children who have toy-free time display increased communication skills and social interaction. So, if they want to play in a “car”, let them make one!
making eco-friendly “glitter” with a hole punch and coloured paper or autumn leaves, and avoiding shiny paper or foil, wrapping birthday presents in brown paper decorated by children.
ordering eco-friendly cleaning fluids in refillable, biodegradable bottles from companies such as Splosh and OceanSaver. When the bottles run out, concentrate refills soon arrive in the post. Splosh estimates this generates up to 97.5% less plastic waste.
Above all, please discourage your child from bringing plastic to their nursery – toys, bottles, jewellery, food packaging etc. It’s not what they are going to want in their future! For more information about our wonderful nursery, please visit: www.nurserydays-upchurch.co.uk #plasticfree #nurserydaysupchurch #childrensnurserykent #upchurchdaynursery #environmentalnursery #ecofriendlynursery #kent #rainham #toddlers #babiesupchurch #daynursery #environmentallyfriendly #Sittingbourne #Gillingham #childcarenearme #freechildcarenearme #nurserynearme